Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 1: Seminar with Kancho Inoue Kyoichi

I've been looking forward to this seminar for sometime now. Sensei visited kancho over 10 years ago and ask him about Hiji Ate. He wasn't impressed with the way it was normally done. Kancho did one that wasn't forced, but put sensei on his back on the same spot without him understanding what happened.

When you hear feats like that, usually its done by some dead person a long time ago. Or someone so insanely improbably for you to meet that they might as well be dead before you'll get a chance to meet them. So it was totally surprising to hear that Kancho has already visited Malaysia before. Now was the chance for me to see him in real life.

Kancho began the class exactly on time. It was amazing to see the Shudokan boys in action. They're all proper, structured and behaved as an organised and disciplined unit. No doubt Sensei Ramlan with his teacher, Sensei Joe Thambu played an important role developing the mindset and relationship that these students readily accepted as part of their training regime. Anyway, going back to Kancho. He lectured us on the importance of the spirit. The heart. That's the most important thing. Most times he says, people get caught up with bodily training and techniques. Moving is Aikido no doubt, but so is sitting still. In seiza we learn discipline, we learn mind over body, we learn many things and pain is just a small aspect to it all. So whilst the boys are all geared to get it on, sitting still must have been an endurance test like no other. Since he spoke for 1 hour.

Glossing over the spirit part is not intentional. But it reflects readily what sensei has been trying to instil in us with Aiki no kokoro, makoto and mushin, muteki and all those other mus I haven't gotten down pat yet. Aside from those, kancho says that Osensei used to refer to the spirit not only as our heart or spirit, but also as Divine Spirit. i.e. training in Aikido is not only to train our body, but also to train the Divine Spirit within us. He also mentioned that, in order for us to progress, we need to train the mind so that it matches or balances with our body (i.e. techniques and physical ability). No doubt, the Yoshinkan way is probably the best methodology to train the body. Its Kihon dosa effectively builds all its students with the knowledge needed to perform all kihon kata/waza at the very least in proper form. There wasn't any fumbling about that I saw. Yes, minor mistakes like forgetting chushin, intention and the like... but in terms of movement or steps, without a doubt, all the students knew what to do. And that is simply amazing compared to Aikikai students.

The Kihon dosa was done in a pretty regimented way. Simply following it like the Yoshinkan guys would really be hard for us soft Aikikai people. Even after they do it, they too must loosen up their bodies because of the rigidity. But seeing Kancho performing it, it is very natural. Indeed, if you studied Total Aikido by Gozo Shioda you will see him mention the same thing. It starts out very hard and rigid, but later you'll be able to do it all in a relaxed fashion. This was also true about chushin. When you start out, it is imperative that chushin alignment remains unchanged. But Kancho demonstrated that it can be done when you get better, out of alignment (at least physically). Through it all, I pursued kihon dosa using our kihon genri. In the end, the effect achieved is pretty much the same, minus the strained muscles or joints.

We started out paired practice with tai no henko and something like sokomen dosa. The emphasis as Kancho said is not to pull or move in a linear fashion. He talks about chushin and filling up the gaps in the grip, but really its similar to what we understand as awase and connecting with uke's center. So there's no real difference there. In sokumen nage, the movement in, included a slight center displacement by nage into uke. This is achieved by sliding in with the back leg shearing/cutting through uke's space. The hands as reminded by Kancho's assistant instructor leads the body movement. Kancho mentioned 2 holes. The 1st being the holes in uke's grip/fingers, the 2nd being the hollow of the space between his chest and hands. Nage takes advantage and move into those 2 holes for this technique.

We then did morotedori kokyu nage. This morotedori is done in ikkyo undo fashioned and cuts down. Most times we try to project forward to throw uke. But really, if awase is done right, we keep uke's elbow extended upwards and outwards, dropping our hands with awase would move uke's hand like glue and thus unbalance him into a fall. I myself was guilty of at first trying to project outwards. But when I did our relaxed method it drew a more powerful throw without much effort. Sensei Thambu's take on this is quite fascinating. He really enters to displace you and throws through the elbow in a 45 degree's angle. Not quite what kancho is doing, but very effective and not strength based at all. It was very comfortable to take ukemi from but it was an unavoidable ukemi because his control over your center was absolute.

I forgot. In the tai no henko, as explained by Gozo Shioda to Kancho, when we lead uke, it is important to extend our energy or ki forwards. Shioda told him that energy goes all the way around the world and comes to uke's back. In fact, Kancho experienced this feeling that his small back got pushed or felt like it was pushed by that energy, and he had no choice but to follow the lead.

After morotedori kokyu nage, we did katatedori aihanmi kokyunage. Done from soto, at first with the tai sabaki similar to sumi otoshi beginning. Moving front leg out and turning chushin, extend hands to the corner. Then bring our raising our hands in a circle upwards to control uke's elbow up, we bring our body out of line and chushin facing him again. Then still controlling the elbow we lead it down into a throw.

We then did iriminage from aihanmi using ura tenkan. Here, Kancho showed the use of atemi when uke is down that goes into the irimi movement which done with proper hand awase to the side of the face is actually a neck break in the old days.

We then did nikkyo from same as above. Sensei Ramlan's take was to cut like a sword in a big circle cut. Because the hands were quite far, it was uncomfortable to me against our usual way. But the center to center connection remains pivotal here. Cutting always in a circular  motion, not the hands but uke's chushin is important.

Throughout the class, Kancho emphasised circular movements, correct chushin, correct response by uke and such. Uke he says must hold strong but not resist. Instead treat each and everything as training the body. In fact, receive the nikkyo well he says. Like a lover. Doing this will build up the hands to become strong and supple. Dumb resistance will just cause injury over time. Uke moves too, and don't release the grip or stay rooted in one position. One wonders, because this is similar to the Aikikai doctrine. Moving though does not mean you lose balance, in fact you move to a place which has good balance and position. There are certain movements that he points out is driven by the legs, back legs especially. Moving the body in a disjointed fashion loses this power. Also, he mentions that Aikido is moving naturally, and being as harmonious as nature wills it. Standing and walking shoulder width is the only way to do this. Any smaller you will be less stable, any bigger you will forfeit mobility.

I might have missed some things here, but I hope the gist of the training was captured. Unfortunately I had to leave before the final session so I only had 2 sessions to write off. Since I still haven't managed to get him to do hiji ate on me, tomorrow will be my final chance.

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