Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Aiki Camp : Day 1 and Day 2

Day 1: Saturday. This may look like its going to be written like a diary, but its not. Cause, I can't really promise you that I would be able to have a perfect recall. What I can try though is to give you a glimpse of some of the things I gleaned from the trip...

1st session. Sensei Hakim.
Ki Shin Tai. The study of Aikido revolves around the laws of body (Tai), Ki and Mind (shin).
Before we progress to Ki and Mind, we have to first study Tai.

A. Relax, shoulders soft - we performed several exercises that helped us recognise the connectivity and impact of a relaxed shoulder. Without a relaxed shoulder, power generated from the body will be disconnected or get dispersed. Furthermore, tensed shoulders also allows uke to get a stronger feel of nage and allows him to overpower him.
B. Fingertips, ki at the finger tips - by using an exercise of joining our fingers together and moving it, our focus becomes drawn towards the tips of the fingers. A lot of sensei's have stressed the need to concentrate power on the finger tips, but with an exercise like this, visualisation and feeling it becomes easier. Sensei explains this easily by showing how we can lead someone's ki from the fingers. Which direction they point to becomes the direction their ki flows. Even if they close their hands into a fist, this ki direction spirals in their hands and can be directed.
In this exercise, nage waggles their fingers together and keeps the focus on both hara and their fingertips moving all at once. Uke tries to separate nage's hands apart as strong as they can. If you get it right, the finger tips feel like they are magnetised to each other or welded lightly together. The trick is not to press it together but to move the fingers in synchronisation to each other. Later, when we have captured that feeling of the fingertips generating the movement, we use only one hand and move it.
C. Extend, moveable hands exercise.
In extending our appendages outwards, we tend to use a lot of physical power. But moving with extension eliminates the need to push or pull. Just think of it like a fluorescent light stick. When it lights up, you don't see the stick extend physically but there's power in it now. So imagine lighting up the hands with ki. In this fashion, you can still move the hands. The old method of unbendable arms had nage standing there motionless whilst uke tries to bend the arm at the elbows. But if we have extension correct, we can start with our fingers touching our chest and uke tries to hold it in place, and then we move it out lightly using just the extension and not the muscle.
D. Hara center sinks - This is basic. Using the hara to move and sink instead of pushing down or bending the legs. Sinking the center is a known method for generating tremendous power in our movements across all martial arts.
E. Allowing uke to move like the river - this is a principle that we must understand. Its both the understanding that we don't push water around, instead we channel them and also the fact that such a potent fluid power could be channelled to travel into directions that we wish for it to go to. Learning to harmonise with an opponents power requires first for us to recognise that power and not stopping or clashing with it. Allowing the power to move through, we then learn to channel it.
F. Sharing the weight - in this exercise, uke grabs ryotedori. Nage imagines carrying something heavy and move uke around. Then lets them have all the weight.

2nd Session. Sensei Kaoru.
In studying with Kaoru sensei, we need to understand that in Takeda shihan's methodology, students study to be a good uke before getting the understanding to be a good nage. The idea is that, by taking relaxed ukemi, one gets to capture the feeling of the technique and finally gets to replicate it. This is not so far from our own understanding. After all, a major part of learning Aikido requires us to capture the feeling. We can't do this rationally nor by just mimicking. We need to feel the correct technique thus, take ukemi from a good nage.

So, the exercises that follows really engenders a more cooperative style than we are used to. But it nevertheless helps us to be more sensitive to feelings and energy flows. It's also a good way to learn ukemi, because its more uke centric that our nage-centric training style.
A. Boss. Employee follow - in this exercise, the employee lines up behind the boss. As the boss moves, the employee follows, smoothly and surely. If we resist, we are essentially an 'idiot' employee.
B. Boss. Know employee heart - in this exercise, we have 3 uke grabbing morotedori and pulling the boss's hand to the floor. Boss is relaxed and moves around freely with his hands in place on the floor. He feels and tries to connect to all 3 employees. Then without forcing them, lifts all three easily and move them around.
C. Relax shoulder. Feel center. Drop - Ushiro ryotedori, uke grabs either the hands, elbow or shoulders. Nage relaxes and does not use momentum. Instead its pretty static with uke at the back. Soft shoulders until uke cannot feel resistance in nage. Then nage extends and cuts uke's center then drops forwards.
D. Sleep together. Uke grabs nage, nage is half lying down. As uke grabs, nage does not pull uke down. Instead embraces uke and lies down to sleep.

3rd Session. Sensei Hakim.
In this session we practised trying to fill the space of uke's body. This is an effective awase technique that is used when faced by grey situations such as when opponents are not striking us or outwardly doing a criminal action. Things like compulsive buskers, or beggar or pick pockets who crowd you in. Learn to feel for the places where Uke feels empty and the fill those spaces. Once done, just move naturally and uke will move too.

Progressing from learning to feel for these 'gaps' or 'empty' spaces in Uke's body, we gradually will learn to feel gaps or empty spaces of Uke's energy. As nage becomes more sensitive to this energy gaps, he can then fill these up with his own ki and move uke in more subtle movements. This is what we call Tai no Awase to Ki no awase.

Other exercises done was to achieve dissolving/loosening musubi from ryotedori.

4th Session. Kaoru Sensei.
Nage is half lying again, uke walks towards nage and hands him a hand. Nage receives the hands and brings it to his center. Attaching it to the center, nage moves uke with just his center alone and then returns the energy back into kotegaishe.

In this session, uke's movement is analogous to a bodyguard protecting the president. He anticipates the president's intention and moves to accommodate him. This is a crucial technique for uke to take very difficult ukemi from very good Aikidokas. If we only move because we register the movement, it would be too late sometimes to take a safe ukemi. Being sensitive to the movement, means we can position our body safer for better ukemi.

Day 2.
5th Session. Kaoru sensei.
Nage does Shihonage but stretches his back leg. Front leg is touching uke's body and pins him lightly. Uke
s hands is touched to the floor in a continous circular movement.

6th Session. Sensei Hakim.
Awase and musubi and exercises. Uke touches nage in various situations or nage touches uke. Bear hug, reverse bear hug. Punching motion. Grabs, etc. Easiest is if uke touches firmly nage's shoulder.
Nage needs to feel the touch and connect it into your center. Capture that feeling, now imagine moving that feeling alone (not your body, not your center, not uke).

7th session. Kaoru Sensei.
Shomenuchi Ikkyo, uke move into nage's center. Let the water flow. Nage displace uke's center. Nage can help uke by lifting his back leg with his own back leg (but its not a reap throw). The displacing of the center is very subtle, not like a bump or barging in. The hands play very little in this training session. Nage must flow into a good position so that uke seems to fit into a puzzle and that puzzle happens to be an ikkyo position. Done right, their legs automatically comes up.

8th session. Sensei Hakim. Atari to Ateru. Atari exercises is to develop uke's understanding of providing proper energy to nage to play with. Nage accepts fully, neither resisting nor running away from the power. Nage is also reminded to advance to an attacker, projecting his ki and enveloping uke.

In ateru, we are to concentrate the feeling to one point and then let it go explosively. Not physically trying to attack but to touch uke away.

I think, that's about as much as I can recall now. Later I will try to capture some of the training ideas, methods and principles we have been exposed to in the Monday and Tuesday training sessions.


  1. Is that first pic from my FB album?


  2. After reading all that, this is your question? Yeah it is...