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Last night I had dinner with my dance instructor, Daniel, and our friend, Deborah. Daniel and Deborah meet on Wednesdays at Starbucks when Daniel and I are between dance classes and Deborah is on her way from work to Yoga. The evening was very lovely, but after dinner they offered to make up for the fact that I'd had to miss my Aikido class in order to attend, and that I'd teach some Aikido. Actually before that, Daniel showed us a 3-minute Feldenkrais exercise he developed. It wasn't my first time doing it (an exercise the develops the connection of the head through the spine and into the legs), but I'm always amazed at how much straighter I stand after doing it.
I taught them two simple things. I taught them a simple kosa-dori ikyo, basically inviting uke in without moving the feet. Then I taught them a lovely little demonstration that I'd learned from Eli Landau. The 'attack' is katate-dori, and we start static. Nage just steps off line (changing hanmi) and then lays his hand on uke's shoulder. It's very easy, that way to achieve an unbalancing. It was a lovely little 'party trick' type of technique and Deborah's apartment was set up with a soft couch on one side of where we practicing and a bed on the other side, so it was a soft landing either way and both of them had fun falling and playing with how easy it was to let someone else fall.
I find, generally, that finding a way to bring friends into Aikido really helps me feel connected to them.
That was last night. Tonight, Kevin Choate started a weekend seminar at our dojo. Kevin has got to be the most frustrating seminar instructor I've ever met. He is interested in such subtle issues that it is usually a long weekend of having only the barest clue of what is going on. Interestingly, though, afterwards I often find that my Aikido has really been restructured in some important way.
Anyway, this time we seem to be working on upper-lower connectivity (it's fun having these new terms I learned in Daniel's Fundamentals of Movement class). That is, he was emphasizing this evening the connection that Aikido has to martial arts that use a more set 'fighting stance.' He seemed to be saying that in Aikido, we also wanted to sort of reference or pass through a similar stance. That led to a strong connection of the hands to the ground through well planted feet (imagine a Karate 'readiness' pose).
Another really interesting point he was bringing up was more related to body half. For instance, in a karate stance, it is the arm that is still in by your body that is the one where the power is focused. It has the potential to strike. So, I guess, in Ikyo, it is the hand that is still back that is the powerful one. As soon as you bring out that back hand, you lose the power unless you transfer it to the other hand by drawing the other hand back. This notion of finding power in the drawing back of the hand or the saving it in readiness was sort of a new idea to me and I really like it. It's hard to remember though.
There were two other ideas that are also worth mentioning. I'll just jot them down here to remind myself, although I may try to describe them more fully some other time. One was the idea of drawing in the arm as though you were drawing in a rope that you had braced against your back (one hand goes in and one goes out). The second idea was the importance of compressing a screwdriver back into your palm in order to stabilize it or connect to it. That's true whether you are screwing things in or out. A similar compression of the palm can be really powerful when looking to screw the arm in or out with uke.