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Sensei asks everyone to sit down but you. Now you have been volunteered to attack sensei. Humbled by his request, you offer what you think is your best attack while at the same time realizing if you aren't conservative enough in your attack, sensei will put five feet of air between you and the ground. Obligated to respond quickly, you muster up an attack to which sensei offers nothing more than the facial response of "Are you kidding???" He doesn't have to ask you twice before you realize he really needs you to try again - with more energy. He even does you the favor of taking a few more steps back - subtly telling you precisely how much energy is required this time. As you begin your attack, sensei quickly educates you on what around 25 years of training feels like. Planet Earth suddenly feels miles a way and within seconds you suddenly feel like you are part of the Earth's core. This concludes my summary of what it feels like when attacking sensei.
With the title of this post, it would seem there isn't much else to say. But there seems to be a constant debate in the forums about this so apparently there really is quite a bit to discuss.
Let's start with a good question and this is a question you should ask anyone that might attack you:
Do you know Aikido (or Kung Fu)?
If your attacker responds that they do in fact know Aikido and Kung Fu, then you are good to go. Aikido will definitely work in these scenarios because your attacker is obviously trained in the correct way to attack you according to these styles, providing you with the ability to react to that specific attack.
If your attacker does not know Aikido or Kung fu but they are very skilled in Cardio Kick Boxing, then allow them to attack you. When they are through, enroll in a Cardio Kick Boxing class at your local fitness center.
There's likely a handful of techniques that could be used to highlight the nonviolent philosophy of Aikido. In my opinion, shihonage is one of the best examples. Since Aikido is a derivative of the samurai tradition, it's really appropriate to talk about the use of the sword in shiho nage and how to use the attacker's sword to protect you *and* the attacker.
At the moment of the strike, entering in and grabbing the sword is where the transfer of control begins. It's not a complete transfer, when you raise the sword you are still sharing it with the attacker. It's at this point that the attack itself has become neutralized and you both are now in position to defend against any other attack that might present itself. And so that's the physical aspect of protecting your attacker. What else is there?
OK. A coworker just came screaming into your office and needs to know why you just sent that "flea brained memo" to the entire department. And right on queue, your boss comes in. She thanks you for sending out the memo on her behalf but rubs it in your face that you missed the last two meetings with a long standing client.
So your boss is essentially attacking you but at the same time giving you a way to deal with your coworker. You are now in the position to defend your boss. Cool! Your boss was angry with you but at the same time has presented you with an opportunity to protect her. This will make it easier for you to defend yourself about missing the meeting
Tonites class was amazing. I found out how injured my shoulder is and also learned how to injure my ankle. Both on the left side, so maybe I also now have experience in protecting my right side. I have yet to figure out why that matters, but anyway...
At the end of class Sensei said tonites class was one of discovery - how to discover your Aikido and discover your technique. He explained this by saying with each person the attack is different, stressing dynamic attacks but at the same time implying you have to relearn with every new partner. You have to discover.
Somehow when he described tonite's lesson as a discovery, my mind went back to 1492, back when Christopher Columbus sailed his "pinata" (I know, that wasn't the real name but I bet it was built like one). This was back when if your ukemi wasn't tight enough, Columbus Sensei would throw you off the boat so that the sharks could "discover" how many ways to devour you!
Wow - did I just rant without making a single bit of sense? Well, apologies. Tonite's discoveries will no doubt leave a mental mark. Awesome class!!
I've got this wicked bad habit of trying to blog after enduring the increasingly mind numbing, ego eradicating, bone bending class, but hey, maybe that's just my way of enjoying what Sensei teaches. Coherent sentences will begin in the next paragraph.
I liked Sensei's message tonite. Emphasis was placed on absorbing versus deflecting an attack. This really clicked with me on an intellectual level but I still don't know how to implement it. I recall reading how O Sensei would emphasize becoming part of the attack and with tonite's lesson that makes even more sense.
Sensei talked tonite about fear and courage and the roles they have. I really appreciate when he gives practical aspects for applying Aikido. He alluded to how the principles can be used outside the dojo in everyday life. For example when your boss (uke) comes flying in to your workspace and screams at you (nage) for not putting the cover sheet on the TPS report (watch the movie Office Space for that reference), you can turn the situation around so that not only is your boss complimenting you, but possibly even promoting you! I've literally seen that happen. I watched a coworker go from getting fired to being promoted to department head. Was he an Aikido student? Nope. Did he exemplify the most amazing Aikido skill in the world? Yep. He accepted the idea of getting fired and was still able to elaborate on why he was such an asset to the company. There is never a shortage of things to learn!
I don't really know if anyone has ever told you that you aren't any good straight to your face. Well, I could have made the title of this post even more dramatic but the real purpose of the title of this post was to capture your physical response when you read the title.
Did you change your body posture? Did you notice any kind of shift? It's likely that if you felt any sense of threat, you probably moved to some degree.
Your body communicated something very specific. Freeze, fight, or flight seem to be the three options people think about in dramatic situations. These three options essentially translate into your body language. Through repetition we learn to react to situations with specific responses. Your body simply becomes comfortable "saying" certain things, sometimes even despite what you think you're saying.
It would be valuable to sit and reflect on how you reacted to this and see how to apply this in the dojo. I don't really know you so please don't misunderstand the title of this post as something literal. Enjoy your next class!
There is a benefit to practicing Aikido from static positions. For people just starting this serves as a way to simply learn how to use their body in ways they aren't yet comfortable with. It also gives them the opportunity to work with other people accordingly. This lets beginner's know what the limits are of other people and explore - and even push - their own limits.
The dynamic practice of Aikido is really where I learn most. It seems that with dynamic attacks you don't get stuck as much. You simply *have* to keep moving and doing something in order to "manage" an attack. Having said that, it finally makes sense when Sensei says it doesn't matter if you get the technique. In the heat of a transaction, if you intention is to control your attacker, you are basically giving them a way to control you. When you blend with your attacker, you essentially remove the effectiveness of the attack.
So....I'm going to revive this blog. Last post was 2008 (so much for taking a weekend break from blogging). Lots of things have changed, including the role of Aikido in my life. I've developed an entrepreneurial itch and this blog will serve to support that. I'm looking forward to reading and contributing more here so stay tuned...
Class last night was incredible. A handful of people got hit with swords, one person on multiple occasions (that was me). At the end of class sensei made the point that it is important to fail. I think that statement is often undervalued. He underlined that point by saying there is value in not focusing only on getting things right. It seems like what he was trying to convey is how much can be learned by not letting yourself stop when you get something wrong. When you move the wrong way, keep going. Commitment to the path will eventually show you the right way.
Do the technique wrong. Get up and do it again. Do the technique right. Get up and do it again.
It's difficult to let go of the desire to be right. Children could teach us a lot in that regard. Fearlessly, children do things not yet knowing what is right, but rather out of curiousity to find out what is right. They are "beginner humans" and effortlessly maintain the beginner's mind that is so often coveted. Last night's class is over but the learning hasn't stopped yet.
I was finally able to connect the dots yesterday in class. I showed the class ushiro ryotedori kokyu nage and it really made sense what sensei says in regards to kamae. You have to offer uke something to attack in order for the technique to work. I would actually futher that by saying you have to make it easy for uke to attack you.
In the case of ushiro kokyu nage, if nage just stands and waits for uke to grab both wrists from behind, then uke will likely have the advantage of being able to pull nage down from behind. If nage does tenkan while uke is still attacking, this lets uke grab the other wrist faster and puts nage in a better position to complete the technique.