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moon in the water Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 04-26-2010 11:46 PM
the water does not try
to reflect the moon
and the moon has no desire
to be reflected
but when the clouds clear
there is the moon in the water
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 155
Comments: 1,111
Views: 1,310,152


In Techniques shiho nage: the acid test Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #25 New 10-15-2010 11:00 AM
shiho nage: the acid test When posture (shi sei, form and force) is perfect, the movement that follows is perfect as well.
Taisen Deshimaru, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts

You can do this acid test for almost any technique but it's particularly clear for shiho nage because of the distinct point - the turn - in the middle of the technique. You can do the check on your own first if you want and then with a partner. Of course you can dissect any technique into many parts and in many ways but for this broad-brush approach I just want to break shiho nage down into three phases. Katatedori is the simplest to analyze but it's the same for all variations.

1. before the technique
2. the technique (and especially the turn)
3. after the technique

Step 1 is really easy because you are in complete control of your body before the technique begins and before the uke takes a grip. So all you have to do is keep a good posture with your shoulders relaxed and your chest open. Easy, right. Anyone can do it. It's your body and no-one is gripping it so you can be perfectly relaxed.

Step 2 is the technique itself. Do it normally but as you turn, and immediately after the turn, check the position of your chest and shoulders. Inevitably you're going to notice that your chest has closed and your shoulders have lifted automatically. Complete the throw as normal keeping zanshin at the finish which leads into step 3.

Step 3 is also easy because you are in complete control of your body again after the uke has b ...More Read More
Views: 3703 | Comments: 12

In General outside the dojo? yep. spiritual? yep. Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #24 New 10-13-2010 11:00 AM
outside the dojo? yep. spiritual? yep. Check out the forum thread Real aikido is not just for the dojo.


I didn't like the way some people aggressively and superciliously jumped on a new member.

From here these are all quotes showing that many teachers believe that there is a spiritual dimension to aikido and that aikido practice extends beyond the dojo.

If you have a comment about the thread itself could you maybe put it in the thread please so the discussion doesn't get splintered? Other comments are fine here. Thanks!

It is important to know that aikido includes a philosophy and ideas that go beyond budo. Budo is a subset of aikido, but aikido is not a subset of budo. Therefore, developing aikido technique as a complete form includes, in addition to the principles of combat that will be discussed here, other elements such as ki (and its constituent elements), kokyu ryoku (breath power), and spiritual functions.

Mitsunari Kanai Sensei 8 dan Aikikai

Training has physical and spiritual aspects.

The body has its limits but the mind has no limit. The mind is free and unrestrained. Even though you can tie the body up with a rope (matter) you cannot tie up the mind. Those things which tie the mind are faith and illusion. The mind moves the body and the body can enrich or impoverish the mind.

Let us reflect on the meaning of training. It seems that
...More Read More
Views: 4923 | Comments: 14 (1 Private)

In General go no sen butterfly Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #23 New 10-08-2010 05:32 AM
go no sen butterfly One night last week on the train going home I suddenly noticed a butterfly motionless inside the carriage. Perhaps it was overwhelmed by the electric lights and all the people and the noise. I imagined it patiently trying to analyze the situation. That's anthropomorphism - attributing human reactions to animals (well, and insects).

So I thought finally when it had worked out the time between stations and how long the doors opened for it might make its move and fly away to freedom. But of course it didn't. It stayed there motionless. Bewildered or frightened. Or still waiting for the right moment.

A moth doesn't do that. It doesn't wait patiently to think about anything. It just gets on with trying to escape. It flies off in a direction at random and if that doesn't work it changes direction and starts again in a different direction and keeps moving tirelessly careless of hitting obstacles until finally it finds an opening and escapes.

So you are probably thinking he's going to say we have to be patient like the butterfly. Serene too, maybe. No. I'm not. We have to act. Like the moth. But the problem is not to go off in the wrong direction. How to know the right direction? Well that might take years of training.

There is a terrible danger in waiting. In being a butterfly. In inertia. Waiting until the right moment. The right moment might never come. You have to act. Saki no saki. I remember at an instuctors' seminar listening to a long explanation from Shigenobu ...More Read More
Views: 5040 | Comments: 12

In General Good teachers. Great teachers. Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #22 New 10-01-2010 10:45 AM
Good teachers. Great teachers. My first teacher Kinjo Asoh Sensei (7 dan) was maybe a little unusual when he started aikido in the 1950s. He was 53 years old. The younger students were in awe of this older guy who trained even harder than they did (I know because some of them told me). They called it eight days a week then. Every day once plus one extra training.

There are celebrations next year for the fiftieth anniversary of O Sensei's trip to Hawaii. So he went in 1961. Asoh Sensei went to see him off. O Sensei called him aside and told him he had to do everything he could to catch kokyu ryoku. "Kokyu ryoku is everything," he told him.

O Sensei told him that several times over the years but Asoh Sensei remembered that time especially. He told me the same thing. I have to get kokyu ryoku. Kokyu ryoku is everything and without it aikido is nothing. My second teacher Sadateru Arikawa Sensei (9 dan) told me almost the exact same thing.

So what is it? Kokyu ryoku. Breath power. O Sensei said it was everything. If you can catch it aikido becomes so easy and so simple.

To get it you have to lose power. All power. If you try to do a technique with even a little power still remaining you will block yourself and block your own progress.

A jujutsu/judo teacher showed me a technique from a kata recently. The technique was completely effective. There was no weak point (suki) anywhere. But it hurt. I have noticed this before with senior koryu people. You can't reverse the technique. Everything is ...More Read More
Views: 6928 | Comments: 23

In General sword cut Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #21 New 09-25-2010 12:35 PM
sword cut I trained in kenjutsu and battojutsu (iaido) years ago. It really helped me with my aikido.

For example:
1. Ma ai - the critical distance. And if you are close enough to strike you are close enough to be struck.
2. Aikido strikes when you take ukemi. How to cut straight in shomenuchi and yokomenuchi.
3. How to use a sword. How to hold and handle a sword. Sword etiquette - like how to hand a sword to another person.
4. Of course tachidori as uke and tori.

In battojutsu I made a mysterious discovery.

When you draw a sword often you open your left hip by moving it backwards away from your drawing hand. That gives you more space to draw the sword.

Then my aikido teacher told me to try doing the opposite and see what happened. He told me to draw the sword by throwing my left hip forward - towards the drawing hand. It was amazing. It was just as effective - maybe even a fraction faster. You can try it with a bokken in your belt.

So to get a certain result (finishing up with a blade in your hands ready to use) you could do two exactly opposite body movements. Away from the sword and towards the sword.

I never forgot that. Sometimes white is black. Sometimes black is red. Sometimes there is another answer. And sometimes you have to do the opposite of what you think you should do.

Very cool picture: samurai sword used by kind permission of daliborlev http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_gonzales/3664052677/, photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_gonzales/ ...More Read More
Views: 5097 | Comments: 16

In General Very 'eavy Very 'umble Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #20 New 09-17-2010 12:00 PM
Very 'eavy Very 'umble Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful
With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul

The Sunset of the Century by the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore

"If I may ‘umbly make the remark," said Uriah Heep, with a writhe…
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

…a sunao mind is an untrapped mind, free to adapt itself effectively to new circum¬stances. A person with this mind looks at things as they are at that moment and colours them with no special bias, emotionalism, or preconception.
My Management Philosophy by Konosuke Matsushita

Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis): I should tell you this kind of coat doesn't have buttons. See? Hooks and eyes.
John Book (Harrison Ford): Something wrong with buttons?
Rachel Lapp: Buttons are proud and vain, not plain.

John Book: How do I look - I mean, do I look Amish?
Rachel Lapp: [nods] You look plain.
Witness, directed by Peter Weir

"…I had seen a good deal of him, liking him for his physical energy combined with a certain simplicity and modesty, though, indeed, he had nothing to be conceited about"
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

Since Charles Dickens wrote about Uriah Heep in David Copperfield in 1850 humility hasn't had a great press. Although the British hard rock band Uriah Heep tried to rehabilitate his name starting with the album Very 'eavy Very 'umble.

But if we want to be real budoka we always have to be ...More Read More
Views: 5903 | Comments: 19

In General Bob Dylan/O Sensei Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #19 New 09-11-2010 12:00 PM
Bob Dylan/O Sensei "Does it really matter precisely when the young Robert Zimmerman first heard Pete Seeger sing?"
Bruce Handy, reviewing Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz in the International Herald Tribune, September 2010

Wow yes. That's a great question. That gets right to the essence. Knowing when and where Dylan first heard Pete Seeger sing might help you with a music history test but it won't make you a better musician.

And so does it really matter precisely when O Sensei first met Takeda Sokaku? Will knowing it make your aikido better? Even a little? One percent of one percent? Nah.

If we look forward we can have a vision of the future. We can even change the future. But if we look back the past is already fixed.

Voltaire said, "Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers."

So choose your questions wisely.

And I'll let Dylan have the final word.

the present now
will later be past

(The times they are a-changin')

poster by ROOTS UP on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pazwaz/3471259412/ used under creative commons licence by very kind permission

© niall matthews 2010
Views: 4805 | Comments: 11 (1 Private)

In Spiritual Budo/DNA double helix Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #18 New 09-03-2010 09:00 AM
Budo/DNA double helix If one of your parents - or grandparents - does budo you can take one of about four possible deliberate approaches.

1.You can do something completely different
2.You can do a different budo
3.You can do the same budo casually
4.You can do the same budo seriously and follow in his or her footsteps, perhaps becoming a teacher of the next generation

But what if you don't even know?

My first experience with fighting arts (well if I don't count soccer or rugby - probably I should) was some boxing when I was a teenager. I also played chess - boxing just seemed to me to be like playing chess using your body (chessboxing when it appeared a few years ago was an unlikely but obvious development in sport for me!). I remember a match against a boy who had no time for an intellectual approach. He immediately hit me hard on the chin. A few years later he went to prison for doing the same thing to a police officer. Anyway many years later to my surprise I found out that one of my uncles had boxed professionally.

I was interested in Japan and Japanese culture and I went to Japan when I was in my twenties. I studied and practiced aikido and some other martial arts seriously and hard with the best teachers in the world. Now nearly thirty years later I teach aikido and aikibudo and self-defence.

When I was in England in August 2010 I spent some time with an uncle I hadn't seen for many years. I knew he had done a little judo as an adult but I had the impression he had sta ...More Read More
Views: 8527 | Comments: 12 (1 Private)

In General C/ENTER + SCISSORS Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #17 New 08-22-2010 03:57 AM
C/ENTER + SCISSORS I taught a seminar at Asoryu Aikido Club in Huddersfield in the UK on 21 August 2010. This is an extra blog post about some of the things we covered.

Anyone who has any questions about the things we covered is welcome to write a comment below or to send me a message any time (whether you were at the seminar or not!).

It was a beautiful sunny day and from the dojo there was a great view over the rolling English countryside. Everyone was keen and sincere. I enjoyed it a lot.

The main theme of the seminar was CENTER. We covered basic points about centre:
- Always keep your own centre. So your posture should be solid and strong and straight and your hips should be low.
- Break the attacker's centre in every technique.
- Techniques should be done in front of your centre line.
- Throw down your centre line.
- For many techniques your centre should be as close as possible to uke's centre (for example irimi nage after you have entered behind the uke, or shiho nage before you turn)
- Shomenuchi cuts should be made down your centre line like a sword cut.
- Yokomenuchi cuts start from your centre and finish in your centre.
- When you are taking ukemi attack the tori with your centre.

I spelt C/ENTER like that because the second theme of the seminar was ENTER = IRIMI.
We did some irimi nage variations (omote and ura) from different attacks and with some different timings (early entry and late entry) and even some different finishes (omote ...More Read More
Views: 7865 | Comments: 14

In General Ghost and ki Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #16 New 08-20-2010 09:00 AM
Ghost and ki Patrick Swayze died in September 2009 of pancreatic cancer. He was in a few popular movies, for example Road House and Dirty Dancing. I liked him very much in Point Break (which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Oscar this year for The Hurt Locker). He was Bodhi, one of a gang of bankrobbers who wore Presidents of America masks. Keanu Reaves was Johnny Utah, the FBI agent who went undercover and became a surfer to try to catch them. There is a great quote in that movie. A tough old FBI hand looks at Johnny Utah and says "Guess we must just have ourselves an asshole shortage, huh?" He just says, "Not so far." It's a very cool movie.

But I want to talk about Ghost. I think it was Patrick Swayze's most popular movie. He plays Sam Wheat, a young banker who moves in to a renovated loft apartment with his cool ceramic artist girlfriend (Demi Moore looking boyish). It's partly a romantic movie and there is a famous potter's wheel love scene with Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers on the soundtrack.

When I saw Ghost in 1990 I remember thinking, "Hey, this is about ki!" (movie spoilers below…)

Suddenly Sam is shockingly killed in a mugging that goes wrong. But after his death his ghost stays on earth to try to protect his girlfriend from danger.

Sam, now a ghost, has to learn from other ghosts (ghost sempai!) how to pass through doors effortlessly and then how to touch and move physical things when he doesn't have a body. These lessons are like aikid ...More Read More
Views: 5454 | Comments: 9

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