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just got back from a 3-day workshop with William Gleason Sensei, who crammed in a lot of introductory work on IP/aiki and how it applies in aikido as we know it.
FINALLY... all the stuff people have been talking on and on about on the aikiweb forums make sense now. *phew*. i now have to go through all the stuff on IP/aiki over that's been talked about here to see what stuff i've missed when i first read it through with an uninitiated mind.
i wonder what it was like for the other aikido practitioners who were planning to attend a regular aikido gasshuku and suddenly be introduced to the IP/aiki stuff. Sensei raised stuff that were very heretical and unorthodox, yet in a way, kept true[r] to the spirit of aikido.
more importantly, Sensei was mingling all over the mat demonstrating directly with participants rather than using only one uke for the whole workshop. i had the privilege of being his uke several times, and got to feel him directly--which makes A LOT of difference then just watching it from far. AGAIN, now it makes so much more sense why people in the forums keep saying that "it has to be felt". having felt it now myself, yup--i would say that it does.
this is all still extremely fresh to me, and i've got tons of stuff to digest mentally, and work on physically. this is yet another paradigm shift for me, but as i've been somewhat nomadic in my training, i'm no stranger to making room for seemingly contradictory training principles... i find that eventually th
we had a guest sensei from Japan teaching a seminar on the past weekend, and i wasted the first 3 hours of my training wrestling with my ego. i noticed myself nitpicking the sensei's demonstrations--how the techniques had various vulnerabilities for counter-attacks, the flamboyance of the movements, and the unnecessary focus on minute details.
not only that, i was annoyed with some of the other participants; some higher-ranking aikidoka who were doing their own techniques, and lower-ranking students trying to teach others--including me, how to do techniques [wrongly]. one student in particular, pissed me right off by being stiff as a plank, and trying to be 'resistant' and not reacting to my atemis at all.. i eventually shamed myself by yanking him into submission whilst doing an irimi nage... gahh~!
whilst all this was happening, i could see with my mind's eye how i was just bloody wasting my precious day away. i could hear part of myself pleading to just get on with it, to 'empty my cup', and take the opportunity to train and learn, and train and learn. but did my ego back down? not without a fight. jezz~ with all those talk on the aikiweb forums about internal power, oh yea--i think i've got plenty. my ego was completely rooted to the ground, and able to knock me down without moving a hair's breadth.
somehow over the lunch break, i managed to calm my ego down a bit. for the rest of the seminar, i was doing relatively okay, and eventually last night when the guest teache
every time i think i've moved on the classic debate about whether aikido is primarily a martial art or a spiritual/philosophical pursuit, something happens, and i feel myself getting dragged back into it. more often than not, i meet someone who feels particularly strongly about it being one or the other, and the arguments appear to make sense, then i start doubting my original conclusion. yet, given some time and more contemplation, i then find a comfortable philosophical spot to sit in, and my 心 is calm again for a while.
i wonder whether this is an eternal to-and-fro, like the change in tides; or do i simply need more time to cement my opinion? well, as i was just typing those thoughts here, whilst unsettling at times, i actually prefer the former than the latter, as the latter would imply that i am no longer receptive to what is, but simply what i have chosen to believe.
but anyways, before i digress even further, my most recent internal contention has been about whether it is more important for aikido to be perceived and practiced as a bona fide martial art - or just as a means to end, a spiritual transcendence of sorts.
i reckon i would like to have my feet on the ground, whilst having my head (and/or spirit?) in the heavens above. yes - i want to have my cake and eat it too, and i think that it is very possible. in fact, i wonder whether that both are essential for a true, well-rounded and competent aikidoka. as people grow and evolve, their needs and f
i had a dream last night of attending an interstate aikido seminar/gasshuku and then half-way through the dream, i went into a change room and changed into a systema t-shirt and camo pants (closest thing to their uniform). hmm, i wonder what a psychoanalyst would make of it...
so it's been a year and a few months since i started cross-training in systema approximately once a week (give or take) along side my regular aikido classes, and it's been great. there was an initial period of time where i got quite infatuated with it to the point of contemplating giving up aikido to focus on systema, but i stuck it out past the honeymoon phase, and i'm now in a more or less comfortable, polyamorous relationship with the two.
i hope it doesn't come to a point where i have to choose between one or the either down the track, but at the moment, they seem fairly complementary - although there is a natural tendency for me to pop up stuff from one when i'm practicing the other.
has my aikido improved since doing systema? hmm, i suppose it's impossible to isolate completely the variance of my continued training in aikido, but i can safely say yes to a few particular things as they have been absent or at least not emphasised in my regular aikido training in the last year or so. these almost exclusive benefits that i've gained from my systema cross-training include:
ability to take hits, and subsequently reduced fear when being attacked (especially when doing irimi);
i presented for my shodan grading yesterday. i still have not really processed the whole thing yet, but i don't actually remember thinking very much during the grading. it was pleasantly quiet inside except a select few loud thoughts that i remember having...
1) "ow, my thighs are caning!" - just after the first set of hanmi-hantachi techniques
2) "no time! no time!" - while being rushed by 3 ukes during randori.
3) "ouch! damn, how am i going to explain this bruise at work tommorow?" - after being hit right below the eye with a bokken.
4) "oops, that's embarassing!" - after doing a couple of sutemi nage instead of sumi otoshi.
5) "hallelujah, it's over!" - when instructed to perform kokyu-ho.
i was thinking of starting out this post by stating my admiration of and loyalty to aikido... but i think it is unnecessary. my actions, past, present and future, will be sufficient.
perhaps every so often, the traveler on a path questions the path they tread.
as i have had posted a few weeks ago, i have begun cross-training in Systema, and so far i have enjoyed the sessions quite a bit.
one thing i have considered prior to starting - or indeed, has led me to begin - was the possibility that Systema is more of what O-Sensei was intending Aikido to look like, than the Aikido that we practice today.
amongst O-Sensei's [paraphrased] quotes that gets bandied every so often are that 'Aikido has no set techniques', and that 'every time you do a technique, it is different'. Another popular one is that 'Aikido is 70-90% (the percentage varies depending to source) atemi'. if i simply use the two training methodologies as the bases for comparison, then i would argue that Systema is more consistent with my understanding of O-Sensei's vision for Aikido - or at least the physical aspects of it.
is it possible that Aikido as we know it today has veered far away from what O-Sensei intended? i am not the first to ask this question, and i'm certainly not the last.
until i find an answer, if ever, i shall just have to continue my shugyo. onegai shimasu.
i had my second systema class yesterday, and i wanted to chronicle my thoughts and feelings on it before it becomes a too distant memory.
at this initial point of my foray into a second martial art, i'm thoroughly enjoying the training sessions of both aikido and systema.
i find the training so different yet similar. it really does feel like i'm exploring both sides of the same coin.
in aikido, i find joy in the purity of the attack and subsequent movements/techniques that come with it. the feeling of flow in the movements, and the attempts of perfecting every little subtle nuance is pure and beautiful.
in systema, the joy comes from being in the midst of chaos, and the resulting spontaneity and fluidity of the movements. if one were to use the 'shu ha ri' framework loosely, i'd say the training sessions i've participated in so far started immediately in the 'ha' bit and i imagine would be moving towards the 'ri' components soon [relative to aikido at least].
when i have the time, i might talk more about the specific differences that i find between the arts, but these are my key emotive responses that i have noted thus far.
i'm a little concerned about if/when my journey on both these paths might clash, but i hope i'll be able to deal with that situation appropriately. until then, i intend to enjoy training sincerely in both.
i do that so well that it applies to me not only at the physical/technical level, as well as the philosophical, psychological and spiritual level as well.
i've learnt that aikido is not about fighting. several times now. but i keep forgetting that. and then i learn it again. and then i forget.
i've learnt it again today. but i'll probably forget. but before i do that, i better write it down here first. =)
for my own future reference, today's mini-satori contained the image of a small 'slice' of area between the world of fighting and the world of dance. and aikido being both and neither. it was a path that *could* be one or the other, but was also completely unique and separate. it can, and is, a perfectly blissful, satisfying and complete enterprise on its own, but is commonly perceived as either a fighting art or a 'dance', simply because the lack of ability of the perceiver to perceive that special space between.
"the harder one tries to find ki, the more it eludes us. but he who never searches for it, will never find it."
perhaps it is the same in my quest of understanding, conceptualising and attempts to categorise aikido in a neat little box, labeled "martial art". rather than try to see and fit aikido to what we want it to be, perhaps we should see it for what it is.
last weekend, i had the honour of attempting for my ikkyu grading in the presence of Takeda Shihan. it was tricky to prepare for it because i moved interstate a couple of months ago and had to join a different dojo under a different 'style', and so had to guess what version i needed to present for the grading.
anyways, have a look at the youtube video. your comments would be most welcome.
it's been said many times that the academic pathway does not to teach how to do your job, but teaches you to learn how to learn.
this makes sense because every job is different, and no academic course can teach you everything you need to know to complete your particular set of tasks. the best thing you can get out of your whole education experience is to learn how to learn.
i propose that the same applies to aikido. aikidoka cannot expect that their teachers will teach them everything technique they need to learn in the way that they will absorb best. in fact, every person they train with will understand and convey their aikido in a very different way. it is unrealistic to believe that there is a universal way of teaching or learning aikido that is the "best" way.
the best we can do is to learn how to translate and take in as much as we can from other aikidoka in the best way that we can in our own way.
thus i propose that as a teacher, the best thing one can hope to teach one's student is not the most precise, best, techniques etc., but to help them learn how to learn.
of course, more importantly - it is our responsibility as students to learn how to learn. and keep on learning!