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Francis read my six teacher list on "profiles" months ago and said it was eclectic. And so from time to time I try to pass on some memories of their teaching and way of teaching. It occurs to me one of my "assistants" (most of the students who helped me teach others got called "assistant" at one time or another) came up with a phrase, which, if you will forgive the fake pidgin imitations some of us did in those years before "politically correct"..... made me feel validated in recommending any seminars we could get to. I had asked him if learning from different teachers was confusing. He gave a contented smile and said, "All go same stomach."
Very wise. And please bear in mind, any of us who were imitating certain accents were doing it with affection, not mockery. Cultural exchange can be beautiful, and not without humor. Personally, I feel that English, with spellings from so many languages that it comprises, can be very confusing anyway.
Well, that's a long intro. I was going to call this entry Odds and Ends, but that sounds a bit like "everything but the kitchen sink" So instead I gave a little insight into the wisdom of assistants. If you ask your assistants for feedback, hey, we learn something from them every time!
Scroll back a few decades in time to the late seventies. This same assistant after being told about Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba visiting New York Aikikai came along to watch. I might have taken the class, I'm sure it was very crowded. Larry eventually became first kyu, having definitely earned it, but the class might have been first kyu and up. The joke about the mat was you had to bring a shoe horn (to get on the mat) but no disrespect intended, it's just that space is at a premium in New York City.
I had told Larry that Second Doshu was very slight in build physically but the precision of his technique made it very powerful. I heard him describing the class to someone else and he said in so many words he's very thin but oh wow can he throw people! As I said, not his exact words, but the words were very respectful. He was impressed.
Different teachers emphasize different aspects of technique. I remember some of the students of Shuji Maruyama Sensei visited and they said that, of course they admired their own teacher, but they also liked Yamada Sensei's tenkan turns. I myself incorporated something of that kind when I composed the 'twelve days of practice" -- "twelve triple tenkans" I don't think we ever sang it for Yamada Sensei, but we should have. I haven't been to a Christmas Seminar in decades and I'm not even sure they still call it that, maybe just December Seminar in New York. Marianne and I have talked about it but still haven't been...
I remember Hikitsuchi Sensei once said, when he was giving seminars in New Haven, or in an article someone wrote about him, that some things you can try and try, and it just doesn't happen, other things just seem to happen without effort. Well, that's just an approximation of what I heard or read, but it's something to think about. Sometimes what we want to do would inconvenience too many people to try to get there, but in the old days I just got my parents to take me to the train station or I took the bus and they left a car at the station. So I really agreed with a statement of Chiba Sensei I read long ago, that we should be grateful to our families because in most cases those of us who train in aikido are able to do so because our families help out in various ways. Again this is just an approximation of what I read, but the idea is probably pretty close to what he meant.
Larry and I and the others at our little YMCA dojo had a game called "groceries" It originated at a demo in New York, it might have been for the UN people to promote the idea of using Aikido for the peace keeping forces. This was in the late seventies and Saotome Sensei and Terry Dobson arranged the demo, and one part had Saotome Sensei doing freestyle with an actual baby doll in his arms, symbolizing protection as he turned and turned in such a way that the "baby" was always safe.
If I may summarize, I think the concept was to aim for defending without causing harm to others. I will leave the analysis of conflict situations to others wiser than I, but again I "stole" this technique and brought it home to our little YMCA dojo. But instead of using a doll, I teased the students who were all guys that day and called the centering exercise "groceries" And so Larry was assisting, saying "someone is trying to grab the bag of groceries you are carrying, so you keep turning...."
Carina's right, you can learn a lot if your dojo plays games sometimes as part of the learning process!
And, Niall, cultural exchange can be fascinating, especially with a few Peak Frean's biscuits, it can even be delicious
My mom told me I used to drive her crazy as a toddler when I walked around the house singing commercials. She said it was bad enough hearing them all the time on the radio
But imagine this: I used to teach shiho nage out of cat food commercials.
You see, there was one for Purina Cat Chow where they did one of those film replay things where the cats have a foot stepping forward and back a few times. It was to the tune of "Calendar Girl " if any of you remember "I love I love I love my Calendar Girl" Okay, it was Calendar Cat, and they even sold a Purina Cat Chow calendar with different cats for each month. And the last notes were "chow chow chow" like the cha cha cha (fans of Dancing With the Stars will remember this dance)
How did I use that? We were doing the katate tori shiho nage where you step forward, uke grabs that hand on the same side and then you step back, and then forward again, which takes uke's balance before nage steps across and then turns... So I teased the new students, saying "You think this is some kind of difficult Asian martial arts technique? Have you seen the cats on tv? If they can do it you can do it!"
Actually, shiho nage is not really easy, there are a lot of points to keep in mind, but it helps to start out positive! Footwork is so important that it's nice to add a little humor from time to time on the part of those of us in the position of making corrections
Well, a long post, I hope those of you who have read it this far found something you like in it