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The "eight direction throw" is also a bokken suburi exercise that can be used to cleanse the negative energies of the old year and usher in the new. Instead of the usual paired practice, Sensei had us spread out and taught us how to cut eight ways, facing a different direction for each cut, using the corners of the room as a guide. Suburis are meant to be practiced alone, but as a group, the collective energy became a palpable thing. Our bokkens rose and fell together, our ki-ai's were timed, and the swishing of our feet across the mat made a soft wind's song as we fed off this synergy.
A former boss once drew a helix sculpture to help me visualize synergy. He said we each go through our individual lives and different jobs, but the points where the helix met were where we communicated and what kept the structure together as a whole. So it was important not only to find the merging points, but to ride their energy.
Learning how to play a musical instrument had been one of those things that I had always meant to do but never got a chance to. "If you have a heart, "Sensei had told me, "you've got rhythm. Aikido is rhythm, and it is music."
We cut through eight directions in the dojo, like a compass star and all its sub-directions. Together, we cast our last year's sorrows, shortcomings, and negative energies out to the winds. The rain beat a staccato rhythm against the dojo walls, washing away the old year. I moved and cut with my bokken, thinking ahead to sunny days a
Ki. Chi. Life force. And elusive concept, it is sometimes given the analogy, "what makes up the red parts in your palm." In martial arts practice, we learn to harness this energy in our movements, direct it outwards to back our attacks and throws with vitality. It is the essence of us, the iron core of our spirits, the well from which we draw strength when our endurance runs low, feeding us with the will to continue when we feel we've got nothing left to give. It makes up our "ki-ai's,"--the battle cries that regulate our breathing and are the extensions of our strikes. Martial arts make us aware of our ki and how we can use it; we learn to hone it like an essential tool, shaping it as, over the years, we also whet our spirit and character.
The first time I saw weapons being demonstrated at my dojo, I was blown away. The class was sitting in line-up, and Sensei had out his bokken (wooden sword). One minute he stood in front of the class with a senior student, lecturing on how the paired practice should be performed. "Like this," he said, and then he launched into quick, precise moves with loud ki-ai's to enhance his thrusts. Clack-clack! The impact of wood on wood rang through the air, harmonizing with Sensei's battle cries like percussion to a thunder song, and in three moves, the student helping to demo was against the wall, forced backwards by the onslaught, barely timing it correctly to parry the blows. My jaw dropped open; riveted to my seat, I forgot to breathe. I h