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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
I spent most of yesterday guest instructing at a "martial arts symposium" in a nearby town held by the local jujitsu club. I was one of four guest instructors: one from brazilian jujitsu, one from ninjutsu (who was teaching only tonfa techniques), one from wing chun do, and myself. I taught four, one-hour sessions with people rotating in and out of the sessions. It was actually quite a lot of fun!
I think there was altogether about sixty people who attended. It was quite a mixed bag. I taught tae kwon do folk, some hapkido people, lots of jujitsu practitioners, and some isshin ryu guys. They all seemed very willing to step out of their comfort zones to try out what I was showing them.
I work to have as martially-effective a style of Aikido as I can. This means I sometimes strike and kick and kiai; it means my movements are often small but produce big reactions in uke; it means if uke isn't unbalanced and moving all the time through my technique its no good; it means my techniques increasingly come from the ground and with whole-body unity. It also means that, to one degree or another, all those who trained with me yesterday were both baffled and surprised by what I was showing them.
I'm just starting to get a grasp on "stacking" myself when I stand in hanmi, on transferring energy through my body, on the mental game of energy direction, on working from the ground to power movements and exert control over uke, on using tendons to hold myself rather than muscle. Its all very fascinating! But I've had a gradual introduction to this stuff as I've read, and thought, and experimented, and discovered. The people to whom I showed some of what I've come to understand yesterday at the symposium were...confused - not so much by my explanations but by their comparatively abrupt exposure to internal skills. Judging by the frequent looks of surprise, none of them seemed to have any idea that the things I was showing them were possible.
What really struck me was that most of the people, while briefly fascinated by what I was doing, were very obviously too invested in their way of moving to want to delve any deeper into what I was showing them. One of the isshin ryu guys said to me that he only knew how to move straight forward in a fight (which, given his large size, probably worked most of the time). Blending and relaxing was too foreign to him to be useful! Another woman remarked that she had got the impression that Aikido was devoid of striking and was surprised that I used them in my technique. It sounded almost like an accusation! I was glad to disabuse her of her mistaken view of Aikido! Generally, those who practiced with me were either surprised that Aikido was actually martially useful or faintly agitated by the realization that there were deeper levels on which to study technique. Regardless, they were all very pleasant and respectful folk and it was a pleasure to share a bit of Aikido with them.
Perhaps they'll have me back next year. We'll see.