Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giving and Receiving

It can only be chance that it is in this month that I thought about giving and receiving in Aikido. Not that it's by any chance a new concept...

Part of the landscape of Aikido is that you need to rise above the act of wanting and doing and reacting. Not in the, let the flow of the winds guide me, laissez faire kinda way. But something like, following a path of acceptance.

Somebody said, 'pasrah' is giving up, 'rela' is acceptance. Such a simple wisdom. We are not giving up, we don't 'allow' things to go every which way. But neither do we fight tooth and nail against something. This middle path of acceptance is benign yet not passive.

In the act of receiving, we put into our minds that the energy or vibe uke provides is a gift for us and it is ours to receive. This energy could be a strike, a kiai, a grab, a kick or any number of things. But ultimately it must become ours to do as we wish.

In the act of giving, and it should always begin with this in fact, even with receiving, we give sincerely our energy to uke. Even before a single inch of movement is made, our hearts and mind have started giving. A simple way to give without depleting yourself is to give love. Love every thing around you like the world and the universe loves you. Not the person, not the name, but the essence.

If we can achieve this thoroughly, it would be very difficult to displace your center. Another person may try to attack you verbally or through his actions or inaction, but because you are perpetually in the state of unconditional giving, you would not be disturbed.

Imagine you are a glass of water and some takes a sip out of you. You'll find gradually that you become less and less. Or if someone adds ice cubes into your already full glass, you'll find that you will overflow. These are factors that affect you beyond your control. To maintain a state that cannot be disturb we must change our being from being a static cup. We must instead be something like a river or a well. By continuously giving water to everyone all the time, people taking water from you or dumping ice blocks in you will not change your state. Your volume would remain consistent.

It is in this context that I'm thinking our Aikido should be like.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shu Ha Ri

Continuing from my earlier post...

The meaning of Shu Ha Ri can easily be confused when one examines it's 3 different character on it's own instead of in context to each other. The most common misinterpretation is that Shu Ha Ri divides keiko into three distinct parts or periods.

This way of thinking advocates a student to experiment and think up of 'different' or his own interpretation of techniques and principles and even training methods. It is construed that after a certain time in shu, he now has the ability to foster Ha in his training and finally end up with a new Ri...

What Sensei explained is a bit different.

Shu Ha Ri is to completely train in the path of your teacher. To train in a way that everything is the first and the last. If you continue training the path of Shu this way, you automatically enter the state of Ha. And down the road of mastery, Ri is realized whether you try or not. You might be convinced that what you are doing is exactly what your teacher has taught you, but others will see that your Aikido is different while retaining the similar foundations.

In a way it may jive with Osensei's comment that all techniques come spontaneously and cannot be repeated. That is the way of Aiki. But in Shu Ha Ri, it is not the pursuit of 'unlimited techniques' that concerns us. In Shu Ha Ri lies the foundation that becomes the base for the essence of Aikido to latch on to.

Needless to say, if your final intent is to grow apples, then the seed being planted must be an apple seed.

Aiki Camp 2011

Just came back and I've much to think about, and practice. This time around I didn't bother taking any videos at all. It's pretty useless in an Aiki context anyway. There were a lot of things I wanted to write down, but basically couldn't keep up with the flow of information coming in. So I'll try to put down what I can...


When asked, Osensei answered that Aikido comprises 2 elements -  heat and light

If it's just light then we'll be doing meditation only. If it's just heat, then we'll get stuck fighting. But in budo, martial and spiritual cannot be separated. The greatest power is love. While it may sound like a Whitney song, that doesn't mean it's not true. A true force of good cannot be destroyed. And the truth is, nothing is created evil.

Our purpose in aikido is to find the light in our hearts. The light originating from the Source. The reason behind our creation, to reflect His will in our actions. To think we are significant when we should picture the universe in our minds. It's vastness and our relative significance... In size we would be smaller than an electron. In impact, we would't be approaching zero. Yet mankind continuously believe that the universe revolves around us.

Thus we approach aikido the same way. To do unto others instead of just following the course of nature.

Aiki sukomi for ryo kata was a new thing I learned today. The grip we usually use is for pulling mostly. Now using sukomi, it would be easier to control the opponent.

Atari. Tai atari. Equalize the energy of the movement. There is no retreat or hesitation or doubt.

To progress to awase, use spirit atari. The body allow loosening.

Tai awase. Body shaping. But also fill the shape as a 2nd method. Then put the power in the connection as the third method. But loosen the other parts of the arm. The 3rd method eludes me at this point in time. But I think it's similar in the Hino videos where he clenched and unclenches his arm.

2nd session 

Atari - there is no direction.
I'm only cutting and that's why uke's energy stops.
So if I continue to project forward spirit atari, guiding his energy or pulling his energy might be hard. (still possible I think)
Instead the feeling of acceptance is atari. Accept not just receiving. Accept is acTive. You 'switch on' atari before a confrontation. This way you manifest a connection to uke. As he contacts with you, atari powers the blending of energy. Of unifying the opposing force, becoming unity with the other. Then tying this unity up before 'doing' something is musubi. At awase level, it is still possible for uke to escape.

During musubi I frequently lose contact with uke's center. Connection center to center is still required at musubi level. Without continuous atari, awase and musubi is not possible.

Musubi with his energy... Feels like eka moves the contact point where atari contacts. He doesn't move you just that point. Also, possibly and easier method is to start with atari, awase at contact and realizing the musubi point. Before doing higher level musubi exercises, originate the movement for musubi contact with your center and affect his center.

most times we go straight to skin or try to move the contact point. But imagine anchoring his center with yours and only then move the musubi contact point.

A mistake to avoid is during static exercise to wait. Or after musubi is achieved to think. T do this naturally is to train until feeling musubi contact point becomes natural. And 2nd to move or guide or listen to contact point movement becomes automatic.

One exercise to pass through a first person into the 2nd person requires feeling him through another. A physical movement will never result in anything in that situation. If it's just transfer then perhaps momentum and spiraling can help but not passing through. That's just mind power.

In loosening and absorbing... Atari never stops. Relaxation is very important too. Center and chushin power is needed to establish power line. Then to let the movement realize itself.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Limits and Their Possibilities

I think we live in a world that's afraid of losing. As much as they are afraid of losing, they are even more indignant of imposed limits. Strange considering we live by so many laws.

The problem being, we see laws most often as an injustice. Something imposed by those more powerful than us, and exploitative in that they predominantly become one sided. These are human laws of course, created by whims and fancies of rulers in the guise of benevolence and the 'I know what's good for you, because you sure the hell don't'. This line of thinking is not new and exists since the time of masters and slaves, colonization through the 'white man's burden' appeal and a slew of other motto and slogans.

This innate fear and distrust of laws and limitations then psychologically affects us and scars us and see us shrink from laws and limits. It doesn't help that we have so many motivational courses and television shows that inspire us to break such limits. But inadvertently, it would appear that there's a caveat to just who can break those limits. Heroes and heroines yes, second rate characters (i.e. you and me and cousin bob need not apply please) a resounding NO.

So whilst the carrot hangs from the string saying we can break do limitless things if only we TRY, success rates of course depends on how good looking you are, or which pedigree you come from, or some other random factor of the day. The masses get to look on with awe and enthusiasm how one person overcome the odds and defeated the bad guys.

What in the world am I talking about and how does it relate to Aikido? Well its those said limits you see. As I've mentioned there are man-made limits and there are natural limits. I will go on to define that natural limits are limits imposed on God to us. This limit is different to that of man-made limits, which is absolute in how it rules upon others, but it can be broken and it can be redrawn according to whims of the PTB (refer Anne Mccaffray on this). Whereas God limits are absolute yet has different tiers.

I believe God limits not because He wants to impose on us, but because He is benevolent. Most times those limits are absolute barriers to entry, but they can be surpassed if you reach a higher tier of understanding.

Now most will answer to this, what crock. Here's a man who can't achieve anything with his own strength and ability and is now blaming God. Actually no. I believe that limits imposed by Gods do give us targets to live by. Live within the limits and you will be happy. There shouldn't be this all encompassing greediness to see what more can I have. Yet at the same time, there are avenues that you could use to surpass some of those limits. And that's through knowledge, hardwork and sincerity. Therefore, in His eyes, everyone is an equal. They are all equally limited and they are all equally gifted. You decide who you want to be.

If I wanted to explain more about man made limits, I'd think about matrix. Its so extraordinary that such a film  could be so profound in its observations. 'Human beings couldn't survive without the remote possibility that a single hero can bring them freedom' obviously reworded through memory but in essence, the Matrix which is a simulacrum of a normal life human beings have on earth was created perfect without even a hint of it being a  program that is basically a virtual prison. But the AI discovered that the perfect matrix caused the human batteries to wither and die. The mind couldn't accept the perfect world. It couldn't accept the matrix as reality  because it wasn't. Somehow the mind knew it was a lie, and that lie needed an outlet of escape. Not that they  or every human in there would choose to escape, but enough that the knowledge of the lie is there and that should someone try, the possibility of escape would be there. Isn't that cool?

Also, limits are there sometimes in the form of our physical capability. You limit your range of motion so as not to injure yourself. You limit your power so you don't injure others. You limit movement so you can practice or isolate on areas that are weak. In so many ways, limits are really really helpful.

In our daily practice, sometimes we have our ups and downs. And surely one time or rather you wish you lived without limited capacity. You wished you could do this and that. Yet... is the time right?

Dave Lowry once wrote that his Sensei made him fumble through a Kata all summer until finally gave a simple line of advice, to shift his weight at just this point. Amazingly it allowed Dave to finally complete his Kata flawlessly. Only 1 bit of an advice that surely at some point in the future he would have found out on his own. Also, that surely could have saved him some 3 months of pointless training!

Yet... thinking about it. Would it really? Would that advice have worked 3 months ago before all that hardwork, that failure, the experience of living through it all? The knowledge was capped until he was ready. Too early it would have been useless, too late... well then it would have been too late.

In our practice, don't see limits as limitations. Think of them as beneficial steps that act as guides to our journey. Going over at the wrong time would send us to the cliff below without the necessary equipment to save us. But remember only men believe in absolute limits that are imposed. We however should live by God's rule instead.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Atari and Chushin, the Gozo Shioda demo or something like that...

Well, for want of a better word I'm using Atari here for a particular training exercise. You see Gozo Shioda doing this very often. And Inoue sensei as well, following his teacher's style. Though it is impressive, it doesn't require you to have a stronger body than that of your opponent. So how is it that an apparently weaker and smaller old man can let fly an uke stronger and younger and who is charging at him at full speed?

Pic from Koshinkan Aikido Website
According to Kancho, its all about timing. I think though, its a whole lot more than that. Sensei does this type of demonstration too, however nothing too frontal. Most of the time his frontal demonstration which is similar starts from ryotedori instead. However, with uke charging against his shoulders or chest, sensei invariably always turns on his chushin. Uke always flies but not back to where he came from, instead it feels like pushing against a secret wall that turns on you and your hands got sticky glue so you can't let go until of course you find yourself falling...

Its not something you can replicate just by spinning. But I think I'm beginning to see how it works.

First off, it all begins with kamae. If you can stand in kamae with your center in advance position and you can actually move from center instead of legs then you could probably do this.

Basically its about advancing your chushin as if you are moving forwards being drawn by it but not yet quite reaching the stage where you need to move your feet. As uke touches you, your imaginary kamae is touching his centerline too (your hands are by the side in this case), turn from chushin and watch uke fly. Or at least that's what we hope would happen.

Trying to stablise your posture with your legs, you will find that when uke comes, invariably their power will snag into you and in the worst case plant your weights on your feet. The give of the body also sucks any power that you could have utilised.

Conversely, toughening up your body or meeting forward with body movement when Uke comes will usually lead to a clash of power that dries up any force you could have used.

Its not muscle power, its centerline. Its not timing, its sense, its not bracing with force, its atari.

I think that's about it...
Um yes, its not the actual Gozo Shioda's signature demo... but something like it. His demo has got to start from this one I think. But until I actually find out, I'm not gonna bet on my words.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is Aiki body or Mind?

Now, take this post the way its meant to be taken. A student pondering, not a discourse of the subject Aiki.

There have been many discussion on Aiki, its origins,what exactly is it, who has it, no he doesn't have it...etc. Throughout its history, never has such an open secret be so thoroughly explored, misinterpreted and argued more than the subject Aiki amongst its fervent worshippers... the Aikidoka's and all the Aiki Jutsu related schools of Japan.

Some have even ventured into the Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) in the hopes of finding the secret from the 'source' of Japanese martial arts, or so they say. Many books have been written, obviously, most will point that the origin of Aikido's Aiki stems from Daito Ryu, and most rightly so I suppose. Because it is an accepted fact that Osensei couldn't beat Takeda when he first encountered his teacher, even though his past opponents never presented much threat to him. It is with Takeda that Osensei's illustrious career as an undefeated warrior began.

Still, some mutterings have been heard about the origin of Daito ryu, that it found its aiki from a wondering chinese martial artist. Since Daito ryu has no shortage of amazing personage who have demonstrated Aiki before, I wonder why really do we have to dig even deeper? If the DR schools have shown remarkable consistency in churning out students with Aiki, what logic is there to go through an even more obscure path of tracing Aiki into China? Just learn from the DR guys...

Certainly, on would wonder all this. My sensei however believes that Aiki in Aikido is more refined than when it was first encountered by Osensei. On hearsay, many people who had the privileged of feeling osensei  when he was alive, described amazing encounters that border on the fantastic. Certainly nothing of the sort that they believe they can get in DR right now. However, no one can discount that DR itself left 2-3 persons of note that when you hear of encounters with them, show no less in terms of great and amazing feats that left their opponents mystified.

Putting that aside however, how do we mediocre students who are not super geniuses like Osensei and his DR peers learn Aiki? Judging by the numbers, the % of success seems very very low. Unless of course there's a whole slew of Aikido teachers hiding Aiki in their sleeves.

Having been exposed to some Aiki, I find myself wondering what is it that I'm learning. Certainly there's some body elements here in the beginning. A way of thinking as well. Maybe a way of moving too. There are so many different exercises, that provide glimpses of Aiki, but never the whole picture.

I got to thinking that if it was physical and perhaps a small part of it is, how is it different then a regular physical movement. My theory that the small % of an Aiki movement could still be physical, but even that physical aspect is different then how we would normally do things. Instead of using muscles that are common,  it could be we are using rarely used groups. It takes a high amount of concentration to move your body using muscles you generally aren't even aware of, but a lot of body arts share this knowledge. Pilates, Yoga and certain house jujitsu... so it could be that using the skeletal strength and uncommon muscles and moving in a smooth and coordinated fashion causes opponents to miscalculate and misinterprate nage's movements. Consequently, they lose composure or focus and get easily unbalanced. For example, in Aiki Age, I've been thinking that aside from getting our center underside against uke's center, movement of the hands is done by the lower back instead of shoulders and arms. Thus this subtle movement will be missed by ordinary minds.

Notwithstanding that, a higher stage of Aiki development would apparently do away with the physical aspect in its entirety. But for that we have training in spirit, intent, feelings and things like that. It was never never anything to do with Ki per se. We don't have sessions of meditation to cultivate Ki to be used in fights. Always, it is understood that Aiki energy is the natural universal energy that passes to every creature.

As it gets higher and higher, I believe even the mind is given a lesser role to play. And in that circumstances, we no longer move our bodies with our consciousness or earthly self, perhaps even we are moving with out 'true' self.

Anyway, I'm just thinking about that. The nice thing is, after playing around with some wing chun people I just think that more live practice in a none Aikido environment, would be more beneficial in training for Aiki. With the Aikido guys, they just have this innate pressure to conform to what is expected. But for Aiki to work, it should work on anyone and especially everyone. That I guess would be where we can find our answers. Certainly I think, you can't find much by asking your teacher all the time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Of Silence and Contemplation

It's been ages since I wrote anything here. In part because I'm still trying to understand better before I speak of a subject, but mainly because I was so busy with work. As always, with Ramadhan, I get more time to sort things out because we spend less time doing needless things.

Funnily enough, that's what Aikido training should be about. Leading towards the gradual elimination of needless things. Most people study Aikido awhile and come to various different conclusions. It doesn't help that they came in already colored by rehire expectations coming from watching all those videos out there. More often than not, they'd come to conclude that AIkido is so fake nowadays because people try to hard to follow Osensei's vision of harmony (or what they perceive as his vision). And because of that they talk about collusive aikido, about cross training, about looking for 'aiki' or 'IT' from somewhere some who...

Then there'll be the Daito ryu boys saying that Aikido is nothing but a watered down version of their budo and so on and so forth. First thing's first... Osensei said a lot of things about Aikido, but he emphasized in so many different ways that Aikido was never about the technique per se, nor is it about the movement. He almost always approached it from a relational aspect of the universe. How to fight someone who is in harmony with the universe is impossible. That Aikido begins in the heart.

Nevertheless he did condense certain techniques that he used again and again to demonstrate this art. Amongst the most often used is ikkyo and iriminage. He also said much of aikido can be taught from shihonage. Yet, they are a means to the end not the end itself. Otherwise how could you do it any better after 20 years or 50 years? The process of writing a word doesn't make a particular word any more meaningful, you can wrote gold a million times if you wish, it won't make you rich by the way. However, practice writing continuously and I'm sure one day people will praise you of your script. Perhaps you could even do calligraphy by then. For all of the beauty of your script, does it mean that you can now write tear jerking prose? Or novels that paint a picture so vivid that it colours the imagination?

Thus in that simple technique that's made up of so many different principles and mechanics and rules, what we are polishing goes beyond the application of the technique. Goes beyond the proficiency, the fluidity and the validity of the technique. You need to realize the technique's true purpose and that is to understand Aikido.

And at what stage can we begin this type of practice? It really boils down to you. Needless to say, to begin with you will need your letters and you need to learn the vocabulary, so I suspect Shodan is where you try to take your first tentative steps into the unknown.

This is the point where you can no longer answer through copying, where you have to answer through understanding. And of course, what I understand is but a piece of a million pieces and each of us may pick up different pieces in the beginning. Yet, persevere and we will complete the same picture. Some of us may take longer than others, but keep at it. For the pieces fit only in this puzzle. If we discontinue and try to pick another piece from a different puzzle, you will only end up with a weird incomplete picture in the end with many more pieces missing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kihon intensives: Sunday

Katate shihonage. No change. Ukemi, at kuzushi, to fall back and over so the legs point into the direction of the fall. Not like the yoshinkan method.

Katate kotegaishe. 2nd method. Body escape using combination of butterfly hands and irimi movement. Also remember, as kaeshi is performed, not to transmit power into uke. As kaeshi is done, uke's power is drawn towards nage's hara too.

Katate sokumennage. Like shihonage. Bring up and draw uke to you. Touch with the other hand and enter. Careful for hijiate reversal. Remember angles and intent.

Katate sumo otoshi. Reverse palm, cut to the side and tai sabaki. Rear leg move more and control chushin. Enter all together.

Futari katatedori/morotedori. Light and easy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Swimming and Aikido

Some years back my old aikido teacher told me swimming was like aikido. Being the guy I am, I never asked him to explain.

Just now as I was doing some laps whilst holding my breath, I realized that it's quite strenuous. I wondered how all those movies about guys and girls swimming underwater avoiding bullets, bad guys, sharks and zombies could possibly do what they do for a minute or longer when even 20 secs was too long for me.

That got me thinking on how to improve my strokes. Being self taught I have no doubts that my technique is far from ideal. Plus the fact that I kept my body straight to prevent water from going into my ears was probably a factor. Then, I thought about how sometimes swimming felt so effortless that I could have swam forever. I wonder what was it that I was doing wrong.

Then I tried to move in unity. Instead if pulling my downstroke with my arms, I twisted my torso slightly. To my surprise, I wasn't breathless anymore. 20 secs was nothing. My arms no longer burned the oxygen I needed. Using the body turn didn't exert my body at all, and the laps went by easily.

So is this what he meant? Well I guess maybe. Moving your body in unison is not magic, nor is it aikido's secret. Certainly it's right there in basic aikido, we do it everyday. However, moving body in unison is not the end to it all. Knowing what part and how to move those parts in unison is equally important. Take our kihon kosanage ikkyo for example. You need to sink and move your body with your hands and get kuzushi. But just turning on your vertical axis won't get you anything but a punch to your face. There is a need to move from your hara and not the hand, but also to maintain a chain or a link from hara to your hands to your uke. Sinking, you take kuzushi only if there is a connection to uke. An easy way to start will be to sink into uke's corner but not moving forwards whilst doing it.

Other techniques need equal study and how to best move your body. And this is why kihon training is so wonderful. It allows an actual study and development period to practice moving your body in a united fashion. That us why in the first level of aikido, harmonizing with yourself, kihon is absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kata dori Menuchi ikkyo

Just a short clip, but I was whiling my time away link to link and came across this one of Tamura sensei. Very interesting...

In the first iteration, nage atemi's even as uke grabs and strikes. Thus from the atemi, could even cut down the men uchi hand before going for ikkyo at the katadori hand.

In the 2nd iteration, Tamura sensei is pointing out that we should not stay to perform ikkyo on the hand, and instead to irimi before the ikkyo.

In the 3rd iteration, he was pointing out that the atemi hand is not a block for the men uchi. In this instance when you lose chushin (and uke's), uke has gained control of the attacking line.

In the 4th iteration, he sinks and controls the vertical space.

I love it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Yogja seminar

Ah, Yogjakarta... one of my favourite place to visit in Indonesia. A very relaxed place and they really do have nice food that I recall from my first visit. I was really looking forward to this but like everything else in this world, something had to go wrong.

I couldn't really train well in the month preceding the seminar. Because of some health issues. Then I fell sick 5 days from the date and was basically a like a wet dead dog by the time I flew in. I also had to buy 2 separate flights back a day earlier to handle some work. Basically, it was like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  Events occurred that really tested my endurance to actually go to the damn place. However, it was a commitment I had to force myself to adhere to. This was a test of will, and somehow I had to pass. Although I did go, I couldn't take much ukemi from sensei himself. So that was a major disappointment for me, but the training itself was good.

On Friday, there was a training session at the local dojo. I went to practice but in the end because the sensei was outstation, the seniors forced me to take the class. So we did some basic training in preparation for sensei's seminar. I started with the basic kamae focusing on hara and chushin development. Tenkan as an entering movement not a turning movement. Sinking hara to perform leading movements and sokumen nage. Then we did a few basic techniques like katatedori shihonage, kosadori ikkyo and tenchi nage, to look at half steps and movement from hara. The students were enthusiastic and energetic. For most, what I showed them was new to them but nothing too far from what they already know. I had a problem with only one uke who was very stable and I couldn't get kuzushi for shihonage omote. One of my weakest techniques, I was thinking that I didn't sink in chushin and perhaps I didn't apply aikiage before entering. But upon discussing with Sensei, I think the mistake was when I shift stance he felt some movement in my hands. The next problem was when I sinked, he told me to enter and displace uke's center straight away instead of vertically and then following with the irimi movement. Something to think about, but I told sensei that I saw him do what I was envisioning before. His answer was that's the next level, I have to get this right not skip it. Ah... yes we are fond of that. Changing methods when one doesn't work. In the end, we lose the opportunity to develop ourselves further by avoiding a difficult obstacle.

Sensei's class on Saturday near the Kenji outlet was interesting. Both his class and seminar the next day basically orientated around the same things. Hara, Sinking and Atari. Whilst the techniques are varied, those 3 was the core theme to it all. Fundamentally, this syllabus is actually up to 3rd kyu for our school. Yet, on occasion I do come certain uke's who I can't perform it well or immediately especially from static. But because I knew what we were looking for, this really helps with the progression of my own training. This means, its absolutely critical for us as students to train in this fashion. Not just in the dojo but with outsiders in seminars like this. Good progress can be made by applying what we know sort of like a revision against uke's who are not familiar with the material thus would not participate in a collusive manner.

One of techniques that I paid more attention to for the benefit of my uke was the irimi nage from a katadori. Although at above 3rd kyu he should be doing nagare training, I had to start him on static after a few rounds of full speed application. This is simply because having no understanding in sinking and entering instead of moving forwards, he cannot apply the technique well. For this technique uke grabs katatedori, and using our other hand we touch his forearm and sink. As the kuzushi occurs we enter his space and envelop him into iriminage. You could also do it without moving the feet, inviting him and turning kaiten and cutting his chushin as he comes across. But even so, the sinking on uke is an application of atari and hara movement/control and is used either way. If nage tries to cut the hand away or move in, uke is at liberty to stop or hit him.

A yudansha named Azhar who spent nearly 3 years in Japan with Inaba sensei led the Sunday's warmup with a hara building exercise. Looks like the sumo leg stomping exercise and is an absolute killer on the legs. It was pure torture climbing up and down the stairs on the airplanes that evening. Still, I'm wondering if its not a good idea to include this in my daily routine.

I have some vids up from yogja that you can check out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tembin nage

Coming back from Yogja, I was a bit disappointed. First at falling sick right before flying to see sensei. 2nd because I had to reschedule to an earlier day to fly back because of work. Worst of all, for being unable to take much ukemi from sensei during the entire time.

Still, I did get sensei to show me how tembin nage is done outside of class. I wish I had time to practice this but it'll be a homework for me until he gets here in June. This is the video

Its very very different then the typical hiji ate we've all been doing. None of that grab the hand and put pressure on the elbow, shoulder, armpit whatever stuff that you get floating about. Its contact at the tembin pressure point is soft. All of a sudden you find your head being projected forwards. There is NO fulcrum being used whatsoever.

This is even different then the one Kancho showed me earlier this year. Anyway... that's all I have time for today. I'll try to write in about Yogja soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Udekimenage, Hijiate and Mae otoshi

Hmm, normally I wouldn't talk in great detail about a particular technique. But we were talking about this technique over in Aikiweb and it was one of those techniques that done in the 'normal' way doesn't really seem practical whatsoever. However, I had previously asked Sensei about it and he mentioned that he too at one time was unconvinced of the viability of this technique.
Sensei related to us how he met with Kancho Inoue when he visited Malaysia a long time ago. He then asked Kancho how to perform this technique. Kancho asked him to hold his hand and then performed the technique. Without understanding how and without pain, sensei found himself flipped on the spot. Kancho did this 3 times and sensei still can't explain to me what he did until today.

Sensei does this technique differently now though. He uses more of tai no awase with the free hand. Thus kuzushi is happening at the core not at the hand. In fact it feels very much like you are falling over his hand thus there is no real application of force whatsoever on uke's elbow. To me mae otoshi seems pretty appropriate here.

I'll put up a video link here once I find it in my HDD somewhere.

To revisit the technique (I'm more familiar with Hijiate, but the other 2 was described to be similar techniques. In hindsight, I find mae otoshi to be more relevant to what is being practice in Aiki no Kenkyukai rather than Hijiate which eludes to hitting the elbow to effect the throw), hijiate is done when we have uke's left hand with our left hand and using our right hand to go underneath his armpit and then palm up taking kuzushi, take a right foot sliding step forward, rotate the palm down and projecting uke forward. Kuzushi is achieved by leading the left hand outwards, and locking out uke's elbow using the right arm.

Now this is where most applications will vary. I'm not an expert but what I've observed so far.
1. Typically aikikai way, in ai hanmi (say kosadori), you make an ayumi ashi movement and kaiten so now you are besides uke in a similar stance. Some nage will have grabbed uke's wrist by now, some will  just lead it outwards. Next the other hand will go just above uke's elbow and stepping forwards with the back leg diagonally into uke's space, throwing with a rotating hand at the same time.
2. Some will not go beside uke, and instead moving obliquely in the direction of uke's omote proceed with the throw. (the hands are almost crossing and thus real pressure is applied on the elbows).
3. The way kancho showed me though was quite different to how sensei got thrown. He basically utilises enshin into uke's shoulder and projects the throw through uke's shoulder. Some would say, once you've applied enshin into the shoulder and uke's on his toes, you then drive him into the ground. This is quite similar to how you apply a yonkyo.
4. I've seen another method and typically this is used in shiai. Nage basically holds down onto uke's hand and  brings him down with force. This is reminiscent of the unofficial 7th technique. Or a variation of nikkyo where uke's arm is straighten instead of bent. I don't know this is even accepted as a mae otoshi variant or a what, but for most it looks almost the same and I thought just to mention it anyway.

I'm sure there's many more intricate details that I've missed in this list. Its not meant to be exhaustive. All I'm doing is saying that the talks in Aikiweb raised my curiosity a bit since we seldom practice this technique. Thus I revisited it and yes, the issue of non-compliant ukes who resist by bending their elbows and posting with their legs do happen. So its not as fine and dandy as most videos of uke flying forward from such a throw are seen. I don't blame the technique however and most Aikido 'analysts' will come up with a great number of reasoning why such and such technique doesn't work. Inevitably it'll boil down to the fact that we are employing technique instead of applying Aikido principles. If you achieve control of uke's center it is unlikely that he can resist your technique. If you don't, no matter how forceful the technique is applied, uke can definitely resist or counter.

Easier said than done. And as I've mentioned the ideal form for me is to follow sensei's tai no awase and disrupt his core to effect the throw. I don't know how long it'll take for me to learn to this but in the end it'll be far more useful than were I to improve on my elbow attacking techniques.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Comfort zone

No man is an island, is such an apt saying for what I'm about to say. Where men exists, so does competition thrive and rivalry grows. In sports that is fine, in Judo and Kendo you can have the shiai. Yet, in budo, there is only an end to conflict, there can be no sporting ending.

In all the days that we've trained in the dojo. When was the last time you tried to improve your tenkan? Or even your kamae? When was the last time you honestly believed that your ikkyo is capable of putting your opponent down in any given situation. Has there been any urgency in your training?

With boxers, fights can occur every two months or so. Each time both fighters will study the other fighter's videos and look for their strengths and weaknesses. They then concentrate on either improving their own standing weapons or develop an arsenal to counteract and exploit the other's weaknesses. For a boxer that continues to build himself up like this cumulatively and gradually, his strength will grow from fight to fight. For another who only builds himself to match his opponent, his career will be shortlived.

Yet, in both cases, those boxers have 'improved' themselves from their baseline. But its different for us Aikidokas. We who do not have competition and matches, we who do not have rivals, where comes our drive and where resides our goals?

Its easy to say, a belt ranking or a generalised 'improve everything' but are we really getting better? Or are we just going to the dojo, doing the same thing again and again without a thought to its development. Are our uke's testing us for weaknesses each time?

I wondered at one time not long ago, whether a technique could later become a skill. I guess it could, if we only develop it to become one. Irrespective if there's a partner to help us or not, we need to train like we are fighting the greatest threat of our lives. After all, this is not a game. There are no comfort zones, there's only death if we are slow and too sure of ourselves.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Step by Step Learning...

I've been trying to incorporate more ashi sabaki practice in our classes. Its amazing how just a part of the entire whole makes such a difference. Thinking about how Osensei and Gozo Shioda always hinted at the power of the toe, I found to my surprise that the toe is in fact very much an important tool in Boxing too... It makes sense after all, you can move all you want from your center, but if your the feet that's holding you up ain't up to it, you won't be moving the way you should be moving.

So, its great after all to be able to do stuff efficiently and naturally. Still if your efficiency level is 100% of a say 10HP leg as opposed to say a 50% efficient opponent who has 100HP legs, than it doesn't take a genius to predict whose going to be coming on top.

Basic training is wonderful. It builds our bases right and it will eventually lead to greater things. Discovering that greater thing though must come from some live experience or random chance. If the teacher tells you, it ain't going to work. Kinda like the Wizards 4th rule or something. So unless you so happen to enter fights every so often that forces you to do stuff on the go, you aren't likely to tap into that greatness. Then, what does it mean in the end? To keep doing Kihon again and again on the off chance that would suddenly discover its secret benefits? In the end, its tantamount to faith. Faith in doing something good without prospect of rewards. That is the way... to go forward even though there no promises of riches at the end of the road. And in that aspect, one of the secret is revealed; development of one's spirit.

Anyway, we practiced moving forward again but this time using ayumi ashi instead of suriashi. I was trying to convey the importance of moving forwards in one continuous cutting motion, continuously expending the spirit onto the opponent. To begin the cut long before we reach striking range and to do so from the first step. It is only then that we can intrude upon their space without being hit first. If we just move and then strike, since they are prepared and we are intruding into their space, they will get the first strike. But by moving and extending our cut long before we reach their space, we have taken control of the moment.

Also, its simply amazing to see suriashi 5 when applied to the shomenuchi drill 2. It makes the whole movement simpler. The key of course is to maintain our kamae on the attacking line and letting the half step be invisible to uke. Then our movement becomes instantaneous on their attack.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random, disordered meanderings...

I was a bit happy last week when we had a gathering of seniors to practice. Culminating towards Sensei's visit this June I guess. But once a month to gather everyone is really pathetic. Not to mention of course that half the time they'll be training with the beginners in my dojo. Still I do like the fact the practice becomes more intense when the 'outsiders' come in. In a way its a treat.

Still what came after is deflating. Without going into it, I'd want to remind myself that as budoka, its expected for us to go against the odds. Sure a big part of martial strategy is to create winning strategies. Zanshin embodies that concept. The understanding of maai effectively puts that into practice. But in a situation of utter hopelessness, we do not abandon hope. We do not curl up and surrender. We sink our center, tighten the guts, calm our hearts and cut forward. Yet, to be confronted by people who wither away before even the sound of war drums can heard, is utterly mind boggling. What are they doing here in the first place? Tagging along for the fun of it?

Well enough of that. I was thinking I discovered another secret the other day. I was thinking it was possible that a method of extension is imagining your center in your hands. I thought it worked well, but on some people it just didn't happen. Maybe I got it all wrong but I'm going to keep trying it as I move along. Afterall, Sensei said that Kenji Ushiro can displace his center at will. I still don't understand that but... hey here's hoping.

Then quite recently we've been practicing hara projection more and more in class. Not the drills sensei left me because its too difficult for the beginners (actually its pretty difficult for me, so it'll be pointless for the blind leading the blind right?) so I did a variation of it... or what I would think would be a level lower to the original. Instead of a throw, nage walks whilst displacing or uprooting uke.

I think that curving the energy back and emphasising the hand to not lift or sink makes it more target orientated or simpler to do. Practice on the suriashi movements also really help when making a point. The problem with harmonising/awase is that most people become a brick wall when waiting for the strike to come. So by committing nage into a suriashi movement, slowly body unity will override individual hand movement. And hopefully hara gets trained to boot.

I'm really really losing a battle with the kids class though. I've got half the lot monkeying around and half the lot probably getting frustrated with the stuff we're doing. I think its time to do sorewaza techniques instead. Makes all the kids level and removes to much footwork confusion. But some of the kids are not going to handle seiza very well...

I closed today's class with some mumbo jumbo thought that I got whilst closing. We were sitting seiza and I kept still for a few minutes. The funny part is even as I felt the blood in my veins, the breath in my lungs and the, energy tingle in my body... I was pretty still. Yet in this calm and still situation I was anything but still. Everything seem so alive. And I was looking at the others fidgeting about, until I was a bit sorry for them. So I told them that we are human beings and that its impossible to keep still like a statue. Instead thinking about the movement in our body and being calm, we will look utterly still on the outside. Yet we remain alive inside. Its like that in Aikido doesn't it? Not too much external movement if you please, but inside or invisible to the eye, the energy flows enthusiastically.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kobuta Shihan 11-12 March 2011

The last couple of days was exciting. Attending one of Sensei's closest teacher's seminar, Kobuta Shihan. At the same time, I was quietly amazed at his composure during the teaching and his joviality and focus in the midst of a raging disaster back in Japan. Now I realise why Sensei holds this man in such high regard.

Anyway, true to form, Kobuta Shihan focused his teachings mainly on the basics. For the two days that I was able to attend, we trained in Tai Sabaki and basic ukemi.

1st Day

According to Shihan, there are 14 tai sabaki as shown by Tada Sensei. He showed us the first three today which is basic movement in most Aikido dojos. We can practice a type of variation during paired practice where after tenkan we do not follow with a kaiten but instead doing a reverse step.

We practiced movement with ryotedori. 3 Variations.
1. Movement with both hands up
2. Movement with inner hands down, like pinning using your center.
3. Movement with inner hands empty and left behind.

Movement must be done smoothly without thought to uke. Only chushin. Face forward and extend spirit.

Shihan demonstrated suikomi in attacking as uke.

He demonstrated Irimi as a cut. Irimi, reverse then cut. Irimi, kaiten then cut.
Drawing the sword and cut. Ikkyo is a cut, ura is drawing out and cut.

He showed how 30 years ago, Aikido was practice with attacks. He also talked about the sword that kills and the sword that befriends.

2nd Day

We started with kokyu and misogi. The misogi exercises were primarily to cleanse the organs, particularly the lungs. Extending the hands out and bringing it in, in various forms, using certain vocalisations to create resonant vibrations and also tapping the fingers on our chest and exhaling hard to rid ourselves of negative energy. Smiling as we do our taiso.

After that we continued on the 1st day suriashi. Starting with shizentai and then hidari hanmi and migi hanmi.
We did movement 1, which was basic movement. Movement 2A which was back leg into front and then movement forward. Movement 3A which was back leg into front and an extra long forward movement.
Movement 2B is half step and then back to front and slide forward. Movement 3B is half step and then back to front and extra long movement.

After that in hanmi position we moved in 6 directions using movement 1. Remember priority of movement is the leg closest to the direction we are heading to. Center movement is crucial.

Then we continued into applying this movement into basic techniques. Here, a lot of emphasis is placed on how uke should attack and take ukemi.


In attacking we must understand nage's openings. Also grab attacks must have an objective and aliveness to it. Gripping and holding on hard does not make sense and does nothing for our practice. We also do not move by rote. We move because nage's movement changes our role. We do not overreact either or move into compromising positions. Always move in an escalating way.

Taking Ukemi

At first Shihan focused on taking ukemi in a relaxed and natural way. Not to look or lose your attention in Nage, but in accord with his movement. To not shift the body but to remain in relaxed posture and keep chushin as best as you can.  What would start with ushiro ukemi, can later change to mae, yoko and etc. But starting with ushiro we let our body parts learn the ukemi movement and also allow for kaeshi waza.

The Techniques

Today we mostly did ushiro techniques. Nage moves in two different ways. One way is the sword stance where you walk normally. The other is the jo stance where you maintain the same hanmi all the way. At the same time, kamae is very important here. To maintain chushin, extension and spirit.

Ushiro happens because nage moves out of line and nage catches the lead hand. Nage continues his stride, and uke grabs nage in the most natural way. Either neck, back, shoulder, hand depending on the distance. At all times, uke is maintaining control and keeping safe distance.

From this ushiro ryotedori and etc position, nage can move in 4 different ways. But 90% of the time is a tenkan movement from the rear leg. Still we can practice from the front leg as well as a irimi-kaiten movement from the front or back leg instead of tenkan.

In the various techniques we did, kotegaishe, iriminage and kokyu nage, Shihan made an emphasis on Shihonage-like movement or kotegaishe-like movement. For shihonage-like movement it starts with the hand shape. As your hands goes up, you add a turn of the wrist to face inwards before moving. And as we make our taisabaki, our hands join together like a gathering motion. For kotegaishi as we bring our hands up we just cut down as usual.

Both movements however, Shihan showed a joining or meeting of power and then an expansion to complete the technique. Bringing together the power is portrayed by the touching both hands together in the middle of the technique.

During our movement, we must also move like we are holding a weapon. Cutting a line out and understanding that line as we move. You can do this by looking at the cut, instead of thinking about uke. Imagine that cut as a line being drawn on the tatami as you move along. This also plays well if use chushin to guide that cut, our taisabaki becomes more natural.

In practice, yudansha's must move before uke. He does not wait but move like there are hundreds of opponents. Cut, cut and cut. Uke reacts to this movement. Nage doesn't attack though however. Nor does he avoid or move at random. He moves and then blends with uke's reactions. He moves to create oppenings.

Besides the ushiro techniques, we also did a bit of ryotedori. Primarily shihonage. In this practice, ai hanmi for omote movements and gyaku hanmi for ura. For ura, you can do it in 2 ways. One is tenkan, bring the hands up and cut. The other is tenkan, kaiten and cut. A very slight difference if at all when you look at it, but the feeling is different.

Shihan also showed a bit of relaxed and fluid response using suriashi. Uke counters nage's first movement by trying a shihonage of his own, nage fluidly reverse steps and gets kokyunage automatically.

Closing the class, with sorewaza kokyunage, we did a few variations. From a top grab. Bring up and cut uke.     A reverse hand grab i.e. from underneath and uke using structure to hold against nage, cut down and out. A side grab and pulling into center, nage drops center with empty hands and envelopes uke with suikomi and absorb into center and extending uke's hands and then use chushin to throw.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sorry for the Lack of Recent Updates

I haven't been writing much since Sensei's last visit. Then, it was the shortness of time that prevented me from adding anything new, what with driving Sensei around for classes, juggling work and family at the same time. Recently its been more than that...

Sure, more work coming in, little issues cropping up here and there to be addressed, extra classes have all contributed to my procrastination... and the fact that I have new toy to play with didn't help much either (blame the Ipad everyone). But the truth is, I'm finding it harder and harder to put anything on paper (ok, in writing) when each time I see something, I realise that I'm only seeing a small aspect of it. The truths that I thought was real, is only partly so. There is no correct way, there are only imperfections.

My training now I suppose is about getting rid of imperfections. Am I still trying to figure out how things work, definitely! But its no longer the top thing on my list. I figure if Sensei can redraw the line, and order all his students to go back to Kihon and forget about Aiki for now... who am I to argue. Yes, there will always be the inclination to try some tricks some of the time, and I guess that's the spice of Aikido. Its why I can make this thing work for me and the reason I don't need to practice Muay Thai or Krav Maga for example. Work through the injuries, illness, inflexibility and age? Please...

Still, if there's anything at all that I'm really working on right now is extending through the little fingers. It was so interesting when Joe Thambu told me to use weight underside in Kamae and how he thought it really really important. Weight underside if you look at it, really makes extending into the little finger easier to do. Yet when I first started Aikido I didn't really understand what weight underside meant. (Having only recently and vaguely come to understand what extension is all about, it doesn't really say much about me does it...). Its funny that it can take years and years before some other things come into the picture that paints clarity into some obscure thing that have left you puzzling before.

Anyway, I just wanted to write that I've been dreading writing anything more in this blog. Not so much that it'll make me look stupid for someone in the know, but afraid that I'll be giving you the readers something wrong to digest. I've reiterated before, that each time I write, its really a reflection of my understanding at that particular time. Not that it isn't without mistake even then, but as sure as wine turns to vinegar, understanding will change with time.

Ah... I thought I came upon a revelation the other day. About ateru no less... just extend through a line I thought. But then about the sudden burst of energy? How do I reconcile that bit? Until what I can do mirrors what Sensei is doing, I'll be damn if I admit I understand ateru one bit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Joe Thambu's Restrain & Removal Seminar

I was at his seminar last Sunday and it was interesting to see in addition to Aikidokas, we had people from Silat and law enforcement agencies coming in as well. Sensei Thambu is his typical humble self, not much on ceremony and ever willing to share whilst Sensei Ramlan as earnest as ever. You won't want to mess with his family because it reminds me of the TV show No Ordinary Family... you know the guy who plays the Thing in Fantastic Four? Sensei Ramlan not only looks like the guy, but his wife, his daughter, this 2 sons (that I know of) were all on the mat that day as well.

Anyway, Joe Sensei started the day with a simple demonstration of the difference between Reacting and Acting. Uke stands in front of nage and positions his finger a couple of inches away from nage's nose. He will touch nage's nose if he sees any movement from nage's hands. Nage tries to grab the finger before uke can touch him. If you try it, and you're not Bella from Twillight before she got turned into 'one of em', you'd probably be able to grab his finger even though your hands started far off from your nose compared to his. The reason is very simple and that's because your uke is not reacting to you. He's waiting for something to trigger his response, whilst you are just acting. That's why Acting is faster than Reacting.

This really translates to the street situation. Most bad guys know their potential victims, most victims don't know who the bad guys are. The faster your ability to gauge or discern a threat, the better your chances are simply because instead of reacting you can then act. But typical of LEA (Law Enforcement Agency) standards,  we can't attack a bad guy just because of a potential threat not unless the threat has manifested itself. If however we go by that rule all square, we won't last in the business very long. Thus, the job of the good guy then is to turn the situation so that the bad guy has to react and this can done in an assortment of ways. Typically you can engage him by positioning yourself more dynamically instead of waiting, this can even start from a hand shake or a misdirection, but typically just interrupting the attack line and getting a superior positioning is the order of the game.

To start things off, we did the basic Yoshinkan H-tai sabaki set. This set is really great stuff. In most Aikikai schools we show the students all sort of tai sabaki movements and it takes ages for them to remember anything. But with the H, you're immediately trained to move 3 ways left and right in a matter of minutes.

After that we did several techniques throughout the day that were basically Goshin waza of the typical Aikido sets. We did 2 primary pins, one from that had us kneeling on a point on uke, and the other where we actually sat on him and controlled his arms with our legs. In both pins, a single arm free and mobility had to be present to deal with additional threats.

We also did a few come-alongs, one from a modified gokkyo, another from a reverse guillotine. Joe Sensei didn't advocate a normal choke and walking backwards unless you have a partner pulling your belt along to guide you.

After that we did some knife drills where both uke and nage are armed and doing deflect and strike drills. It wasn't as complicated as Arnis drills but was probably sufficient for those exposed to knife work for the first time. Joe Sensei really knows how to maximise the transmission of knowledge to the participants, anything more complex and it would have been a total mess. The drills we did weren't without some food for thought. In blocking we're not aiming to stop the hand, but more about diverting it from our centerline and we achieve this by creating our own path to uke with our hands, some cross attacks require redirecting into a trapping position. We're not moving much but when we do, we are to imagine a line between uke and nage's head and maintaining that distance. Joe Sensei emphasised awareness of the opponent's triangle and not his arms. For most of us that means eyeballing the shoulders. For me I prefer shoulders to feet, but Joe Sensei can look at his opponent's eyes and still get the same awareness going. That's good if you're doing enforcement a lot because minus eye contact and the other party is going to get jumpy.

We also did some chokes and pressure point compliance. Those were not too fun because some of the participants here think they need to break uke's neck. Most of those didn't know the difference between a choke and a break the other guy's windpipe. Especially with my scrawny neck, things were getting decidedly painful until I showed them the difference. This especially highlights the importance of maintaining your safety awareness in seminars. More than once I had uke's going for a real strike to the throat that would had been injurious if I hadn't reacted, it was a miracle no one had real serious injuries that day.

One thing I have to remember is using hara and chushin at all times even though its a departure from typical waza. That is probably a reminder that we've become too much a creature of habit. When it comes to kihon and nagare, sure we're using what we've learned... then when things fall out of pattern and become spontaneous, we lose control of our chushin and hara movements as well...

At the close, Joe Sensei helped check out my kamae. It was great, he didn't impose his way on me but he showed me how it could be done and what makes it work. There is a single plane from the back heel all the way to the top of our head. I told him how we were expected to move, i.e. center drops and the feet shift to compensate. He showed me his back feet pushing the body forward and in alignment. Obviously its easier to do and understand that way. Makes me wonder if that's a better proposition for our beginners.

Anyway, I love the session and have the deepest gratitude for Sensei Joe, and Sensei Ramlan for the invitation.  Back in the UK, the BAB doesn't make any distinctions when it comes to the sharing of knowledge, senseis from Aikikai, Yoshinkan and Ki Society are all invited into the same event to teach and learn from each other. Ultimately this benefits all of the students and Aikido itself, and isn't it a wonder... create more harmony? Here in Malaysia, we're still a bit petty when it comes to things like this, perhaps drawn out of fear from what Hombu would do if they found out and yeah we hear stories like that all the time... but at the end of the day, are we learning Aikido from Hombu's pat on our head or from the teachers and partners who are willing to teach us and train with us?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Duty and Responsibility

Sensei has just gone back. Yet the burden which is not a burden has not lighten in the slightest. In this 3 weeks that he has been here, he has taught us much. Some I have seen, some totally new. Whilst I can say that I have learned much in the time he was here, there are many things left that I have to learn. Not just the refinement of Aikido waza and tai sabaki, but also the principles and foremost.. the matters of the heart.

In Budo one requires 3 things:
1. Self Abandonment
2. Self Sacrifice
3. Duty and Responsibility

Every human being, implicit in his nature, cultivates self preservation. Even with the foreknowledge of death, we strive to continue our existence by procreation or other youth fulfilling endeavours. To embrace its opposite, or Self Abandonment is perplexing. And truly this can only be achieved if we are able to understand self sacrifice.

I've mentioned earlier about sacrifice. Perhaps long ago, people understood sacrifice. Nowadays, sacrifice is becoming more of a rarity. You sacrifice time, blood and sweat for something. Its not a trade. You are not buying something in exchange for those, you're sacrificing. It is the hope that with that sacrifice that something good would arise out of it, but its not a barter trade, or a guaranteed exchange. That's the meaning of sacrifice.

It also entails a purpose. Usually a purpose of higher calling. That's where Duty and Responsibility comes to play. We are able to perform Self Abandonment because we can begin to Sacrifice, but in order to sacrifice our purpose is carved from Duty and Responsibility.

Besides this, Sensei reminded us of Knowledge, Wisdom and Truth. Most of us have gathered to train under him seeking knowledge. But how many intend to use that knowledge with wisdom? And how many of that to seek the truth? Sensei has said that Aikido is not his ultimate aim in life. You cannot bring waza or Aiki skills to the grave, you can't leave it behind to your children to trade with, surely there is a purpose to all the hours spent training and teaching others this art? Aikido is a perfect tool to understand spirituality, but only if you understand what it is you are looking for and only if you understand the meaning of its practice. As sure as some of us are stuck in the fixed forms of religion, most Aikidoka's are stuck in their waza practice. But seeking the essence, one can begin to understand of the existence of a true path. Not just an implied 'Do'.

Before his arrival here, I have wondered at what are the steps that I have to go through to achieve his understanding. Surely I cannot start at where he is now. Should I follow on his steps through Yoshinkan, Shin Shin Toitsu, Aikikai, Daito Ryu and Kashima Ryu? Follow sensei I think to myself, yet he is showing everything and I don't understand where to begin. Luckily I did not even have to ask, because Sensei has formulated a system to practice now. Where before we did basic, intermediate and advance skills interchangeably... now we have a more basic methodology in training using our waza. From Kamae, to half to hanmi. In this very simple methodology, one can strengthen the core or the first set of principles using Kamae waza than the 2nd set of principles using half hanmi and the final set using hanmi. All the time the stances being a starting point to develop both body, ki and aiki understanding. What an amazing system! Simple but effective.

My only worry is that there's no one here to monitor my mistakes whilst training this way. It can only mean that I have to be more vigilant in my training more than ever.

Something Sensei Ramlan said last night striked a chord within me. Much as Sensei has sometimes mentioned why Kobuta sensei always taught something new to the Indonesians but only repeated what his done the year before with the Malaysians, I thought it did not apply to us. (Whilst the Indonesians will train hard in the year what has been taught before, and Kobuta Sensei could see the progress and teach them something new the following year, the Malaysians will practice during the visit and completely forget to train that way the entire year. Thus by the next visit, nothing has changed.) But I can see that we too are culpable. Maybe some of the students have failed to show what they have learned, but as Senpai's we are responsible. Maybe we ourselves have failed to improved on what has been taught to us...

For me, our responsibility foremost is to our Sensei. To learn what he has to teach, and to practice diligently. Sometimes we forget some things that has been taught, sometimes we practice wrongly and make mistakes and sometimes we misunderstood the lessons. To make it all the more difficult, we are without anyone else to guide us here. Our next responsibility is to the junior students here... to guide them as we would ourselves, but to also cultivate them individually through understanding. This is part of our training, to be sensitive and learn about feeling instead of just blundering through or being a robotic parrot.

At one point in time, I thought about stopping to write in this blog. It seems so self righteous or self indulgent to write of things that I can barely understand. For all I know my writing can lead other people astray. But I realise, that to write this down is to record my understanding at every stage and that to use the mind we have been given is our own responsibility. Thus I do my duty, let everyone do theirs.