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In Aikido, we train to be both nage (like the rider - connected, clearly directing the horse in a way that doesn't elicit confusion or a fight) and uke (like the horse - light, responsive, moving, centered, with no resistance to the rider's direction). This classic video of Stacy Westfall's nearly legendary ride demonstrates both beautifully. And it's a beautiful song, too. To the unitiated, it looks like she's "just sitting there," but she's controlling every movement - it's just really subtle.
I have wondered about this, and tried to find any information on whether O Sensei may have kept horses, or worked with them. I thought maybe... I knew he was a farmer, but he could have farmed by hand, or with oxen. I had not found any mention of horses, until just now, in The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba & John Stevens. From Part One - Morihei Ueshiba, Prophet of the Art of Peace:
"Looking for new worlds to conquer, in 1912 Morihei led a group of settlers from Tanabe to the wilds of Hokkaikdo, Japan's northernmost, largely undeveloped island. The group settled in remote Shirataki, and started to build a village from scratch. Morihei worked tirelessly to make the project a success. He put up buildings; cleared the land for the cultivation of potatoes, peppermint, and sesame; engaged in prudent logging of the great forests; raised horses; and eventually served as a local councilman. (Despite Morihei's great efforts, the settlement never really succeeded. Crops failed the first few years, and there was a disastrous fire in 1916 that destroyed 80 percent of the village, including Morihei's first home. Morihei did learn how to tame wild animals, though, becoming pals with several big Hokkaido bears.)"
O Sensei raised horses!!!
If anyone has more information, details, stories, references, anything, I'd love to know about it. Did he ride? Did he train them? Use them as draft animals? Did he raise them for sale? For meat? I'd love to add notes here with any links, book
About this time next week, if all goes according to plan, I will be packing up Rainy's things, feeding him a few last carrots, and sending him off to live with a friend. She will be evaluating him, training him, and ultimately finding him a new person, and a new future. He's bored and lonely here, and too talented to spend his youth puttering around my backyard with just two donkeys for company.
Rainy will be taking a day-long trip north to the bay area, in a big box stall on an air-ride semi-trailer. At the farm he will be living in a pasture with three playmates, and will be working with a trainer several days a week. It's going to be a little rough on me, saying goodbye, but he'll have fun there.
I am giving up riding. More accurately, I am giving up lying to myself about being a rider. Sure, I'll go out with friends, or to a dude ranch now and then, but I'm letting go of saying that any day now I'm going to get around to taking regular lessons, training in dressage, doing groundwork in the yard, and putting some miles in on the trails. It hasn't happened in the nearly 15 years I've had horses, and it's not going to happen. It was a story I told about who I was, one I was very attached to, but it wasn't true. It's time to stop telling it.
I have had plenty of frustrations. I have faced challenges. I have been discouraged, injured, sick, busy… Rather than pointing the way toward this realization, those things actually kept me from seeing it. I thought things would
This post is a "reprint" of a Facebook Note written by Cherie Cornmesser (also known, here on AikiWeb, as Shadowfax). Cherie and I seem to operate on the same wavelength about a lot of things. We are both long-time horsepeople (although she is much more experienced than I am). We are both new to Aikido, starting in spring of 2009, and are both 6th kyu now. We are fans of horseman & aikidoka Mark Rashid. We both like playing with nages who don't baby us. About the same time I was flying off Rainy last week, Cherie was writing this.
Cherie Cornmesser lives in Southwestern PA. A graduate of Meredith Manor Equestrian College in Waverly, WV. She has gone on to train horses professionally on a limited basis, focusing on developing a partnership between horse and rider as a team. She is also a professional hoof care provider using the barefoot methods commonly referred to as natural hoof care. Cherie was introduced to aikido and began to study it in June 2009 after seeing clinics by horse trainer Mark Rashid and with the encouragement of her friend, martial artist, Rodger Pyle. She currently trains under Garth Jones and Tara Meyer at Allegheny Aikido in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA.
Thank you, Cherie, for allowing me to share your writing. With that, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. This is well worth reading:
"While the rest of the world has been immersed in celebrating the season, I have spent today deeply immersed in my favorite subjects. Ai
You might recall that the person who introduced me to Aikido is Mark Rashid, a teacher of horsemanship, author, and Nidan in Yoshinkan Aikido. I had participated in one of his horsemanship clinics in February of 2009, after my large, young horse, Rainy, got scared at the beginning of a ride in the mountains, gave a few good bucks, and I came off.
I've not ridden Rainy except maybe once or twice around the backyard since starting Aikido in May 2009. Now that I'm a lot more fit, and in somewhat better control of my breathing and body language, I thought it might be time to start riding again. My plan was to ease into it with a few minutes of walking around the backyard. Walk, turn, walk, whoa. That kind of thing. Easy peasy. Maybe another little ride tomorrow, and one Sunday, maybe.
Everything went fine today until a neighbor somewhere out of sight made a small, sudden noise. That wasn't a problem, but Rainy's reaction was. He spun and bolted. My limited ukemi skills served me well. When I realized I was so far off balance there was no recovering I bailed in an organized way. I was able to let go as I fell, which is surprisingly hard to do. I was able to aim away from Rainy's legs, and toward a clear patch of soft ground just beyond a log and before a tree trunk. I must have rolled, and slammed into the tree, because I know I was diving forward and to the right, head-first, but ended up on my left side, with my feet tucked under me. Most of the road rash and bruises are
Rainy is my Percheron x Paint/Quarter Horse gelding. He's about 5 years old, 16 hands tall, and 1,400-some-odd pounds. Rainy loves water, carrots, oranges, and belly scratches. He is a sweet-natured, pushy, friendly kind of character. Not a mean bone in his body. But he's young and "green" (not highly trained). He can spin quickly enough and run fast enough to avoid being eaten by the lions he imagines are lurking in the bushes.
Some of my upcoming posts are going to be about applying Aikido to riding and horsemanship, so you might as well know who I'm talking about. :-)
I'm just back from this morning's seminar on Connection, and things are only just starting to sink in. So I'm sure I'll have more thoughts (or feelings?) on this eventually. But here are a few things that stood out for me at first glance.
We did an exercise where we did shomenuchi ikkyo, ura waza, but without touching each other. Just staying together through the technique in a sort of magnetic way. It was pretty easy and slow at first, and as Nage it felt a bit like operating a marionette (a puppet operated at a distance by strings). But then we switched partners and I was working with someone doing it quite a bit faster. And I, when I was Uke, had to keep up! It required a lot more alertness, and willingness to actively move with Nage's direction. He'd spiral backward and downward quite fast (it seemed), and I had to move to stay with him. A strange experience, throwing oneself!
A little light went on there. I have been relying on Nage to physically move me through techniques. Not actively resisting, but not actively extending into the technique, either. Shutting down. Being done unto.
Later, while doing kotegaeshi, I injured the back of my hand - I think by getting behind Nage's motion, instead of staying with him. No biggie, but it blew up a little, so I sat out for a while to do the ice, pressure, & elevation thing. It gave me a chance to watch and let things sink in.
Everyone was working on a reversal technique, and exploring the idea that staying connected