Finally after a two and half week hiatus from the mat I get to go back on again! This time the training was for two occasions: 1.) The first training on the 25th was for the division training. In the Aikido association that my dojo belongs to there are three divisions, each one having about 20+ schools. And 2.) The second day was one was for the whole association. Over all there was a whooping 80+ attendees for both days. A high and rather acceptable attendance rate given the current economic atmosphere.
The first day my two Sensei made teaching appearances. To introduce them, let me simplify things by first addressing them as NSS and JWS.
– NSS is a 7th Dan Shihan, a direct student of the founder of Aikido, and one of the pioneers of establishing Aikido in this part of California. From word of mouth, I feel it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 50% of all of the Aikido teachers in this area either studied under him and/or were training partners with him. In addition he was also the head of the Esalen Institute for a while and has had done services for the psychiatry community as well as business. He has backgrounds in police work and in Judo.
– JWS is a 6th Dan and although he didn’t have the pleasure of studying under the founder, he did study with many of the founder’s premier 1st generation students. Returning to the states in the late 70s after being an ueshi-deshi in Japan, he later acquired the dojo that I’m currently training at from NSS in the early 80s. In addition to Aikido, he is a certified instructor in Tai Chi Chuan.
Put together these two Sensei have 70 years of Aikido experience – around 90 in all considering their other martial arts pursuits. I went to these two events just for one reason: To see and attend classes with these two Sensei. Sendimental isn’t my style but I really do miss attending class under them since my visits are limited.
The first day was a 4 hour long training with five Sensei teaching back to back with only two 10 minute breaks. Some of the older folks didn’t like it, but I enjoyed it thoroughly (probably due to my youth). At the end of the first day, NSS took some time to run through some of the purpose and processes that O’Sensei wished to impart on Aikido. What he said would take a whole new post, but to present it in a short fashion: Aikido is at a cross roads and according to him there are serious misconceptions and misinterpretations of the Aikido that were not the original purpose of the founder.
Also during the first day JWS took the helm and explained something fascinating that I’d like to share. Again, I’m shortening it but according to him there are two things: knowledge and information. Knowledge is in the body, while information is all around you (you, your body, your area, your presence). There is knowledge in you while there is information “out there” (points to his immediate physical vicinity). According to him, there is knowledge in you that you should trust, once you trust that knowledge, things open up for you and new information will appear. However, if you don’t allow that knowledge to “come out”, the new information won’t be available for you to use.
There are some other things that I may have missed and mixed up. But in the end I hope I did him justice…
The second day consisted of the whole association with 80+ people. It’s these types of trainings that I enjoy. When I attended my first association training over 3 years ago I was cautioned to only stick with people from my dojo. As one of my dojo’s older yudansha stated: “You don’t have to deal with anybody’s new movement!”. Although I’m paraphrasing at this point, I remember feeling that instead of fearing another Aikioist’s way of doing things – I should embrace it!
I’m sure it is the same for other arts, but if you don’t allow yourself to test your own skills against people from other schools – people who you don’t train with at all, how else are you going to experience someone who is a stranger who is better – or worse! – than you? To me big gatherings such as this past weekend are great ways to test out my Aikido skill in which I can feel out the movement of others. An experience I always look forward to is when I’m paired up with students from for example the Iwama schools of Aikido. A very different approach to the art – and very interesting. I always make an effort to be paired up with anyone who is not from my dojo.
But this training had something special in addition to my regular enjoyment; I partnered up with JWS! It was an odd situation for a second, but we got right into the technique. I had heard from several yudansha that JWS is a harsh uke/nage who often demands a lot from his own students when they are partnered up with him. However I did not experience any of that, instead like I said we got right into it and in fact I felt very smooth in my movement. Genuinely surprised I was, it felt as if my body was as ease when training with him. I suppose it remembered all those times I was uke-ing for him in front of the class. He’s a cool dude; a little introverted at times, but on the mat he can hold his own with someone such as NSS.
Guess my skill in Aikido hasn’t deteriorated as much as I thought! That’s a good thing…
I don’t know when my next class will be. I cringe at the fact that my spending cutbacks were not as successful as I had anticipated, will more bills to come. However, when I do jump back on the mat, I will let you knows know. Till next time ladies and gentlemen!