Welcome to the 2011 News and Blog for the Aikido Republic devoted to Aikido and Martial Arts news and class notes.
Well we are just about to close up the dojo for the year (well for one week anyway) and its worth looking back of the year to see what we have been upto. Its been a year of change, firstly bringing on Alison sensei to teach an additional class brought with it the responsibility of being able to offer a more complete opportunity to study aikido. This brought the responsability of developing our own members, rather than a kind of drop in centre for the aiki-afflicted and ronin from about the traps, and doing a better job of looking through the lens of Maruyama sensei's syllabus. In due course Alison and Danny undertook training as nationally recognised coaches through the Australian Jujitsu Federation and the Australian Sports Commission, and later on Eric and Anthony joined the ranks of formal instructors with the club (though we view everyone as instructors in our normal practice).
During the year we had the opportunity for lots of wider experiences in Aiki. Locally we had a joint Systema Australia-Aikido Republic seminar with Andrew Seyderhelm's school, a visit from Will Reed sensei by way of a seminar (hosted by Cleveland dojo and organised by Anthony) and a seminar at Brisbane Aikikai. Within our own school seminars with Michael Williams Sensei and our annual schools seminar with founder Koretoshi Maruyama Sensei. Further afield Alison and Eric had the opportunity to practice in Hawaii, attend the Hirosawa Sensei seminar in Sydney and Danny managed to check out some dojo in Melbourne (hello Catherine Sensei) and take in some practice with Okajima Sensei in Osaka, he was also spotted on ABC Catalyst with some rather dubious sword work. In the small spaces in between Chris Rady, a lineage holder in Nakayama Ko-Aikido shared a little of his art, John Ward sensei was a regular guest sharing his knowledge and love of weapons together with experiences from a Daito Ryu master, whilst living abroad in Lao. Vicki's teacher Chicko Sensei also visited from the Sunshine coast which was a treat.
We took a break mid year for a mid winder retreat with good friends Brendan and Kristy in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, complete with outdoor dawn Misogi (what were we thinking?) and the gastronomical delights of the Naughty Chef, all under the watchful eye of Andrew Sunter Sensei who made the trip up (thankyou sensei)
Away from the dojo, 2011 was a tumultuous year with the Brisbane floods, earthquakes in New Zealand and in Japan, we were all affected in some way (unfortunately some more so ) and were reminded of Maruyama Sensei's ' If I hold positive thoughts in my mind good things are likely to happen'
During regular practice in the dojo throughout the year we have often had a two to one ratio of Yudansha to Kyu grades which has made for a high and quite authentic level of practice which has seen our newer students thrive in what is quite a challenging environment. Our December trial of Ronin Shugyo was a success, with the dojo straining at the seams with the many Yudansha tempered only slightly by the Kyu grade enthuasium. We congratulate all our members for their contribution to the training environment, thankyou to those that graded, those that didn't and especially Vicki and Keita on fine Shodan's
2012 opens (pretty much) with guest instructor, Andrew Sunter Sensei on Friday 6th Jan. We will continue Ronin Shugyo on the last Tuesday of every month and after receiving several nikkyo's from visitors we have relented and offer the class at a visitor friendly rate.
Looking back at last years windup (Merry XMAS and happy new year 2010) its great to see the dojo and everyone growing in Aiki together and an enthusasium for learning Aiki shared by all at the dojo.
Visiting Japan brings with it the pleasure of seeing old and new friends again, some indulgence in my favourite hobby of aikido (a kind of energy minimisation problem in a martial context) and the very serious business of sports and sports engineering. Last month was my most recent trip which might be of mild intrest.See Business and Pleasure for more
XMAS New Year break
With the silly season now well and truly upon, we decided last night to continue to practice till XMAS, break till the New Year and then restart on the 3rd. Thus there will be no class Dec 27th and 29th.
Special class Friday Jan 6th, Andrew Sunter Sensei
In the new year the Thursday class Jan 5th will be closed and we will have a special class on Friday Jan 6th 7:30-9:00with guest instructor and friend of the dojo Andrew Sunter sensei. There are a few spots left so interested visitors please come to the dojo prior to this session if you are interested in attending as its nearing capacity.
Ronin Shugyo Tues 12 Dec
As a dojo we are lucky to have many seniors from around the traps drop in during each month, we are asking where possible to all come on the same night. Thus we can tailor a night with less formalised teaching and more collegiate teaching through 'shugyo' and the uke-nage dynamic. We're kicking off on Tuesday Dec 12th and will continue on the last tuesday of the month in the new year.
See our calendar http://www.aikidorepublic.com/martial-arts-classes/when
you can also subscribe to the calendar through your favourite electronic diary/phone/email client
Well its taken a few years, but here is a single take of the system rolling method we use to help newcomers have a good rolling experience. I really like the method because ir prepares the body for the roll that is to be developed, in this way there are no surprises for the inflexible and any potential problem areas are identified early. nearly everyone that tries rolling with this method succeeds and has a positive approach to developing it further. As there is no lumpy contact with the mat the risk of injury is low, and even an ungainly roll can be corrected before something more ambitious is attempted.
The roll shown here is the shoulder across the diagonal to the hip, the lead hand is the next step and best learnt in the dojo.
The method can be safely practiced anywhere, provided obstacles like coffee tables are removed (yes i have heard a few stories of those suffering injuries from these)
The video is intended as a memory jog for those that have had instruction, and is not substitute for instruction by a licensed instructor. Try at own risk
I think we have all seen, or used some analogies to help explain aikido techniques. Sometimes they are helpful, sometime a bit contrived. Late one night at the dojo we decided to put a few through their paces…here's what it looked like. Thanks Alison and Eric sensei's for being such good uke's…err…sports!
Since posting this a few other analogies have come out of the woodwork
I remember Jaime Zimron sensei did a nice demo at the aikiexpo in 2002 using golf clubs, unfortunately all i could see on the web was this somewhat cheesey video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9xKiqLYIU
from the aikiweb something with the beer bottles
Consistency of training is one of the most important things that leads to progress in understanding Aiki. Many say that all you have to do is turn up and thats true to a point, but it can actually have the reverse effect.
Aikido is a mind body art, regular practice trains both of these aspects. Many a burgeoning talent slips by the wayside with the 'plodder' more often than not that stays on the path of mastery.
Getting to a dojo, or finding a way to practice regularly at a challenging level is the key to unlocking this, but with the pressures of modern life it can be tricky to maintain. Simple things like finding a dojo that works with your lifestyle and tweaking both a little can have a profound influence. For example starting work a little earlier, deciding to go straight to the dojo from work/study rather than going home first, or taking a few hours of annual leave once a week to leave early have made regular progress possible for some. Similarly deciding on a level of commitment and sticking to it, rather than sporadic bursts of activity followed by prolonged absence has been the key to manage enthusiasm that can come and go. Quite simply, to do now as you mean to continue, to re-adjust as life's stages demand but always to find a way to continue is the secret to to enabling progress. Dealing with boredom or temporary plateaus is also a challenge, by finding a way to accept it as a part of learning and knowing that it will pass is a big mental enabler.
So once at the dojo, some progress is assured, but to continue to make progress Aiki practice should be a little bit uncomfortable. If you find you are comfortable doing the kata and freestyle practice then probably you have or are leaving the path to mastery. Its well known in sports science that the practice of blocked or set exercises can lead to a false confidence while performance actually decreases, variability and mindfulness are remedies. Uncomfortable is challenging new material, when you find Uke pushes you to the limits of maintaining form, some struggles to adopt recent changes in the kata, even having trouble with particular energies in the dojo. All these are important parts of variability and stress in training that lead to progression to higher levels of understanding.
Only through varied activity and the physical energies of uke will you find yourself in the melting pot of being put under stress where your Aiki continue to evolve and develop. Much of this we know about in a modern context through the development of athletes at the highest level and interestingly they share much with the traditional arts in their methods (see Aikido as an Elite Sport)
For my own part I enjoy challenging practice a few nights a week, its much less that the intense training during the late Kyu grades and early Dan grades that seems to be crucial for embedding the art in the body, but enough to make regular progress. With Ukes 'giving me tune up each an every night' as my teacher, regular knowledge coming from others in the dojo and regular drinks of knowledge from seminars within Aikido Yuishinkai and other schools of aikido, a professional interest in biomechanics and some exploration through other arts I find I am getting by and making some progress…till the next plateau anyways...
Our lineage of Aikido is interesting and varied and provides some windows into our learning methods.
Lineage is a highly important concept in traditional Japanese martial arts (budo). Its easy to presume this means the history of headmasters in a school (ryu) and certainly in the ancient (koryu) schools of Japan there are traceable lineages of headmasters going back over 20 generations in some cases. However in almost as many schools there are the formation of branch schools (ryu-ha), being departures from the mainline of the school to focus on something a bit different, or the creation of new school (ryu) entirely. Routinely in the ancient arts when certificates of mastery (e.g. menkyo kaiden, inkajo and similar) were passed from master to student it often meant that they might become a future headmaster of the school; be a kind of implicit 'I have nothing more to teach'; or 'go forth and create something of your own'. It's a process sometime refereed to as shu-ha-ri (insert link).
Aikido, its styles, its roots and practice today tell a similar story. Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, established the Aikikai as a family based style where the school would be passed on to one in the family successively. To recognise talent (such as in the case of Koichi Tohei) people might be adopted or married into the family, and this is not unusual in many budo.
Ellis Amdur's most recent book 'Hidden in Plain Sight' (edgework.info) traces the roots of O'Sensei's power and in doing so provides a window into the lineage of the origins of Aikido. He argues that the Daito-Ryu is the creation of Sokaku Takeda from the arts his father taught him as well as others gathered from his experiences in the feudal domain. The next generation of that art included Morehei Ueshiba, who is arguably his most celebrated student, but who progressively distances himself from being his student and a licensed Daito-Ryu teacher to eventually founding aikibudo, Aikido  . Arguably one of Ueshiba (O'Sensei's) most famous students, Koichi Tohei leaves the Ueshiba legacy and family school (the Aikikai) to form his own Ki research organisation (Ki no Kenkyukai) and accompanying Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido. Finally, and a bit closer to home, Tohei's one time President and Chief instructor, Maruyama Sensei, founds Aikido Yuishinkai.
In each case the successive founder of the new school (a lineage of sorts) brings influences from outside that of his teacher, perhaps as an aid to understand the teachers art, or out of personal interest or experiences judged to be important. Personalising and owning it by incorporating these other experiences as a 'flavour' or perhaps a larger departure from that of the teacher or teachers. These experiences include other martial traditions, budo and esoteric practices. Takeda was well known for his travels to visit other dojo for lessons, and to a similar extent so was Ueshiba. Tohei cites three main teachers, while Maruyama Sensei is now tracing back to what Ueshiba experienced outside Aikido together with teachers that influenced him. Interestingly, Okajima Sensei - announced as Maruyama Sensei's successor - is well credentialled in several other arts, while Williams Sensei - Aikido Yuishinkai chief instructor - has himself studied under many acknowledged masters as well.
Lineage then might mean something beyond staying in the school and is perhaps more akin to an extension of the sempai-kohai relationship, where despite going one's own way there is respect for one's teachers.
Amdur shares that the name Daito-Ryu itself comes from a relative in the Takeda famiy who had high social standing. Ueshiba began his teaching career teaching Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujitsu, with the name gradually changing over time as the distance from Takeda's art grew. In the process he supported his teacher financially and is said to have handed over several dojo to him as well. Tohei Sensei stayed as chief instructor of the Aikikai for a period after the founder's passing and helped spread the art to the west, before eventually resigning and starting his own organisation (a recently surfaced letter of resignation is available on the aikidojournal.com for the curious). Maruyama Sensei, when he resigned from the Ki Society, went into seclusion for 10 years - in part we suspect out of respect for his teacher and teachers organisation - before emerging to start his own organisation. Our own chief instructor has worked diligently to spread Aikido Yuishinkai internationally and Okajima Sensei has worked hard with Maruyama Sensei to bring the other budo as flavour to Aikido Yuishinkai.
Amdur shares the koan 'a shadow casts no shadow', implicitly suggesting that if a student is just a shadow or copy of their teacher, then the student of that student is unlikely to learn anything of substance (being a shadow of a shadow).
It's a big call, and troubling for hobbyist dojo like ours striving for authentic practice, whilst being mere shadows ourselves. As the incumbent next generation, many have asked can we do Tohei's or Maruyama's Aikido just by copying? For the average punter seeking modest progress the answer is probably yes, but in terms of developing the art further, looking to the past suggests that a depth of experience and quite robust martial experience outside the school is also important.
 Stan Pranin has talked about this in his audio lecture series and more recently on his blog http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2011/10/19/historic-photo-the-amazing-chameleon-photo-of-o-sensei-from-1922/)
With the dojo steaming along well and having need of additional instructors, we are delighted to announce that both Eric and Anthony have agreed to take on the role of instructors as required. Both Eric and Anthony embody the ethos of the dog, its commitment to ongoing learning and exploring Aikido beyond the boundary of dojo, styles and arts. While everyone in the dojo acts as implicit instructors through the uke-nage relationship, there is a need for the formal role in the club to lead practice, be aware of the wider picture and goals of the dojo and the tin tacks of keeping the cogs turning.
Eric was there at opening night for Aikido Republic and has been great to have him on the mat ever since, we have been practicing aikido together for quite a while and its great to have him take on this role, he has been teaching quite a bit in the kids programme at my old dojo so certainly knows how to handle a rabble! Anthony has been kicking around since the Ki Society days, in and out of some of the same dojos and dialogued quite a bit together over the years. Anthony recently stepped down from a teaching role at the Redlands dojo, where he also took on the enormous job of organising and hosting Will Reed sensei during his recent visit.
I'd like to thank both Eric and Anthony for accepting the offer, without to much duress, as is usual in budo all it means is more responsability..so thank you Eric and Athony for your support of the dojo. You can see their brief bio here
Tenkan is a fundamental practice in all aikido school ( known as tai-no-henko in many). Understanding of its purpose and whether it is something that takes ukes centre, uke's centre line or a blending exercise or steps along the continuum is a something that is the subject of some debate. This year Maruyama Sensei opened the national seminar with tenkan at kotai level, specifically teaching a version where nage does not disturb uke's centre at all, and that uke should release the grip enough so that their centre is not taken. It seemingly flies in the face of much of our existing practice, and certainly the responsibility of uke to commit to the attack. We had opportunity to discuss with Maruyama Sensei more about the teaching during the course of practice and so it seems to a few of us that this is a specific practice for Kotai level understanding and helpful as a progression for the higher levels of practice (see Kontai to Kutai
) that he went on to, rather than a 'though shalt do this practice at all times'
After class, and a scrummy vegetarian lunch in an out of the way restaurant that Mark Evans sensei always seems to know how to find, a few of us adjourned to the dojo to work on the toppling concepts comparing notes since we had last practiced at the winter retreat. And then we returned to tenkan, its always a pleasure to work with Andrew Sunter Sensei in this, he is a prominent researcher of tenkan and a senior instructor in Aikido Yuishinkai with many an insight from the other aikido schools some of which he also holds dan grades in. Andrew shared his thoughts on taking the centre in tenkan and than manner in which it is achieved, small (though often insurmountable) problems like meeting but not engaging the conflict and uke's centre through pushing, pulling and changes to the shoulder joint are all under the microscope in a not quite glacial practice. Drawn into the mix Mark Evans sensei shared his thoughts with some surprising new perspectives garnered from being uchi-deshi to Okajima Sensei for most of 2010/11 (along with partner Lisa) from his backgrounds in many arts including in Daito-Ryu
I hope there is opportunity to explore in the dojo in the coming weeks and will also be good to get more detailed seminar summaries from Alison, Eric Anthony and others than went to the seminar.