Aikido News 2011‎ > ‎

Unwrapping Sunters-sans gifts

posted 14 Jan 2011, 02:49 by aikidorepublic

Its been sometime since Andrew Sunter Sunsei was able to visit Brisbane and to be coaxed into doing some teaching. Fortunately we were able to do so this time, in part I suspect because he was staying in our house at the time, or possibly because his new teacher (he is recently married) wanted to see him in action.  Sensei joined us for an evenings practice and drew out quite a few from their Christmas slumber as well as a few aikidoka from the woodwork for the occasion. Having recently attended a 7 day seminar with Dennis Burke Sensei in the UK he promised to bring some of what he learnt. The seminar itself he said was interesting in that it only allows people to start on the first day so that the continuity of teaching is not lost.

Prior to teaching we had an interesting dialogue and some wrist grabbing at a Byron seminar and over tea a few times so I was interested to see the idea might play out to a group with the logical structure and energy that comes with formal teaching. Whilst sensei shared many ideas, the kernel for me were two key concepts and an additional unexpected gift at the end. 

The first was to discover the aiki in ki testing and the second a methodology for uke by adopting a 'hold with curosity'. Having been around he traps for sometime  I am always excited when there are new concepts to be had for a fresh viewpoint on our schools syllabus and the art itself. Almost 10yrs ago I heard Yoshigasaki sensei say ' when you concept of aikido improves only then will your aikido improve', its a powerful statement and gives the opportunity to take an idea and work on it and the syllabus for an extended period of time. Given a sufficiently meaty concept its possible to have something to chew on for 6 months or so - which is the average time between drinks (seminars) in these parts. Sunters sensei's class offered up just these, but enough preamble...

Aiki in Ki testing

For those of us with roots in the Ki Society, and for that matter those that don't, the method of Ki testing is a basic method to develop 'internal strength and understand the way our body and mind-body connection reacts to graded levels of stress through static and more dynamic testing. Initially its designed for static postural tests but is also useful for checking during technique. In the tests we set a baseline method through deliberate tension and a combative mindset of fighting, then we learn to extend Ki, that is relax and pass the test, there are 3 levels of testing usually. Now we arrive at the 2 new levels devised? by Dennis sensei. Aiki - level, seek now to join with the ki of the person testing and rather than fight them - join with their energy and together find that in the case of unbendable arm , the arm is indeed unbendable and more so that the previous levels of testing. The final level is to fill the 'ki bucket' not just with the ki of the person testing but other people in the room, people that hold good thoughts for you (friends, family) and throughout the universe. Its an interesting feeling doing these 2 new levels, level 4 is indeed unique but somewhat unsure about the last, but caught a glimmer and maybe it will come in time. Of course examples like unbendable arm is just bread and butter, the challenge is to apply this in technique and we went through several examples during class.

Hold with curiosity

The role of uke is complex and given to much discussion (see Art of Ukemi) for some its competitive, for others uke is to be admonished because the technique doesn't work and for yet others the role uke is just a formality and a less important part of the art. Sensei encouraged uke to hold with genuine curiosity as to what would happen next. Here uke is not concerned with stopping nage, nor a limp fish grabbing of the wrist but instead is encouraged to make full connection with nage with a genuine desire to see what will happen next if they stay together. With this connection in place uke can step back if pushed, walk forward if pulled and follow if led. The practice requires great commitment from uke and nage needs to move through technique or should I say explore technique at a glacial pace so as to maintain the connection and learn all that is has to give. Imagine uke is on roller skates while you try to do tenkan - this is the level of resistance you might

 feel from uke. Sensei's predilection for the study of tenkan (tai no henko) waza is well know and using this training method many of us were shocked to see uke moving around in circles, rather than belligerently blocking as we tried to do the waza - much to learn!

As a special gift under the tree sensei presented (yet) another viewpoint on Nikkyo (another of sensei's areas of intrest) involving visualising and moving in 3 circles 

1. Horizontal to move to the ura position and set the shape of uke's arm to the characteristic Z shape, 

2. Vertical (tangential to uke-nage line) to gather the slack and prepare the joint and 

3. Vertical toward uke whilst releasing the hip to apply the lock. 

Within these three visualisations the martial, biomechanical and energetics of nikkyo are nicely addressed in a neat package.

Wonderful presents, thankyou sensei