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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.
At the end of class tonight I had my students practice evading shomenuchi from multiple attackers (3 this time). I wanted them to work mainly on evasion and body movement rather than on applying a particular technique. This is pretty straightforward stuff and didn't require having any skill with Aikido techniques, so I let even the new student (first time tonight) have a go at it. He was ducking and dodging as new people do and getting hit quite a lot. At one point, the action passed by where I was sitting in seiza. In an attempt to avoid getting hit, the new guy lunged and ducked sideways so sharply that he completely lost balance and ended up sitting on me! Ha! I saw him coming and got my arms up so that he came to rest on them almost as though he were sitting in a chair. Still sitting on my arms, he looked around at me in surprise and then, abruptly, stood up. We all had a good chuckle. I've been bopped and poked, smacked and wrenched doing Aikido, but I've never had anyone sit on me before!
Since we had a couple of new people in the dojo, I was, once again, teaching katate-tori shihonage. I was thinking about how many times I've actually taught this technique and, roughly estimating, realized that it was over a thousand times. I have to be careful, consequently, not to become robotic about how I teach this technique. I tried to remember what it was like for me when I first tried to do shihonage. Recalling the excitement and fascination I had with it so many years
I had a bit of a strange thing happen at practice tonight. A young fellow showed up to check out a class. Nothing strange about this, of course. It was what happened between myself and this young man after class that was, well, odd. When the class was concluded, I approached the young fellow and asked him if he had any questions or concerns. To my surprise he responded by saying, "Well, I don't want to correct the sensei after my first class but..." I kept a smile on my face, but I was thinking, "This guy's got a lot of nerve! If he offers a correction on my Aikido technique things are gonna' get ugly!" He continued, "...your pronunciation was wrong. Its 'shichi' and 'kyu,' not 'shi' and 'ku.' He was referring to my pronunciation of '4' and '9' in japanese. I wasn't sure whether to be irritated or amused. I went with amused. "Well, I don't really fuss about it," I said, "I'm a Canadian, not japanese, and not too concerned about how well I pronounce japanese terms." The young fellow grinned, made some conciliatory noises and moved the conversation to a different topic.
I'm still a little baffled by this young man's criticism. I mean, what a way to introduce yourself to someone - especially a martial arts teacher from whom you wish to learn! My shihan would have thought such a fellow extremely rude and flatly refused to teach him. Ah, well. I'll see how things go. An odd beginning, though, don't you think? Sheesh.
I have a new student at the dojo who has come from a fair amount of training in striking arts. I think he said he'd done kung fu, boxing, and karate. Anyhow, watching him move reminds me once again of the benefits of learning a martial art that focuses on building a solid base. He has light, fast hands and a bounciness to his movement that one would expect from a striker, but virtually no root. The thing is, although he can strike quickly, his striking has no deep power. I can see clearly that his punching power originates from the shoulder and tricep. He has a complete disconnect from his hips, which astonishes me since he claims to have quite a bit of martial training. This guy is not unique, however. I had an Isshin Ryu karate instructor practice with me for a time who told me he had never been shown how to punch from the hip until he came to my dojo.
Speaking of hips and root and power, I've been thinking about, and experimenting with, how to transfer loads through my body. This, I believe, is key to having a solid base and becoming immoveable. I used to think that one gripped the ground somehow with mental intent, bent the knees, widened the stance and physically resisted an attacker's force, but no longer. As I ponder and attempt to employ the principle of tensegrity within myself, fine-tune body posture, transfer and bear loads efficiently, and learn to get out of my own way physically, I am beginning to feel more "rooted." I have fiddled with some Feldenkrais stu