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.