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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.
Well, we had a visitor from another CAF dojo in Saskatoon show up for practice last night. It was interesting to see how this yudansha was doing his aikido. It was, in some respects, rather different than the way I do things. We were practicing yokomenuchi shihonage (omote and ura) last night so my observations are only about this technique. I usually begin the cut down at the end of shihonage with hands, head, hips and feet all in a line -- just as when holding and cutting with a sword. This fellow, though, using only one hand, would bring uke's hand over his head and with a strong, casting-forward action, cut uke's arm down to the mat. Didn't really see any sword-like cutting motion at all in his form, so I'm not sure about the rationale behind this style of execution of shihonage...
The visitor had been a professional coach for many years and I think it was hard for him not to fall into that role with my students. A couple of times when I was offering instruction to one of my students (with whom he was working), he chimed in and offered his own advice! Raised my eyebrows, I can tell you. He wasn't going overboard with the shadow teaching thing, and I didn't want to embarrass him, so I waited until the end of class to privately encourage him not to assume an unappointed teaching role in someone else's dojo. He's a very decent fellow and didn't get all up-in-arms when I explained to him why I didn't appreciate shadow teaching in my dojo. He recognized the validity of wha
It was a regular Tuesday night practice -- again. We worked through a series of two-man exercises emphasizing relaxation, soft contact, energy connection, and taking uke's center by moving through it. We didn't have our mats available to us, so we didn't do any vigorous classical Aikido throwing.
Here's a few of the exercises that we did:
1. Facing each other squarely, uke, with only one hand, pushes nage 3 times. Nage, without moving backward, slips the pushes with body movement and placement and moves through uke's center. No hands allowed on nage's part. Gotta' stay really relaxed in the upper body and work the angles on this one!
2. Same as before only this time as nage slips the pushes he/she must strike uke. Nage is still moving through uke's center. Lots of timing work, multi-tasking, and striking at angles with this one. Often, attempting to strike uke causes tension in nage, which makes slipping the pushes more difficult. A big part of the challenge of this exercise is to stay relaxed even when delivering a strike.
3. This time uke is actually striking nage from any angle (slowly, at first). Nage may use hands to strike, or to trap uke's striking arm, and legs to trip or sweep uke's legs. Nage must not retreat.
I often give the following instructions to my students:
We are not fighting. We are learning how to fight. There is a significant difference. When you are working with your partner, you are not trying to make your partner fail; you are
So, Jeremy, along with Jamie, is my senior-most student. He's a professional trombone player for the Winnipeg Air Command Band (which is part of the military). He does a fair amount of jazz playing, too. Jeremy is a tall fellow (about 6'3"), but not a big one (he's just under 200lbs.). He's in his early thirties, and nearing his black belt rank, which means he's eager to fling and fly in practice.
I think Jeremy is something of a perfectionist, which probably stands him in good stead as a musician. As a martial artist, however, his perfectionism seems to make him relatively easily frustrated. Mind you, he used to get frustrated at the drop of hat when he started with me; he's considerably milder now. These days, when he gets upset, his face flushes red, his brow furrows and he purses his lips tightly (which you really notice on a guy who plays the trombone for a living), but there isn't the muttered cursing and angry slapping of his thighs like there once was.
Jeremy's coming along very well as an aikidoka. He'll make a very competent black belt. When he uses his length well, his technique feels like he might throw you right out of the dojo!
The one unfortunate thing about his having to train at my dojo is that everyone he's working with is shorter. Jeremy already unconsciously shrinks himself in his movements, and when he's practicing with someone like Jamie, who is only a little over five feet tall, he sometimes has to condense himself so much that, as I watch
I wrote a bit about Jim, the oldest member of my dojo, in my last entry, so I thought I'd continue with the introductions by writing about Gary, the second oldest member of the dojo.
First off, Gary is Irish. This means, of course, he has a very ready and very witty sense of humour (Jim has a sense of humor, too, but its dry as a box of soda crackers). It also means he's gregarious, has a bit of a temper (tho' of the passive-aggressive sort), and has a very independent mind. Gary's always thinking things through, asking questions and making observations. He likes the "why" of things, as well as the "how."
Gary has the amusing habit of talking his way through the performance of a technique. He often works through technique muttering, "So now I want to do this...and then go like this... and then..." Of course, when he's doing this he's moving at a speed that allows it. When things go faster, he makes up for being unable to say anything with some really remarkable faces. His very mobile Irish features make for some astonishing facial configurations!
Practicing with Gary is always enjoyable. He works hard, studies what he's doing, but still manages to have some fun, too. Who cares that he sweats more than a sauna full of football players.
I have an interesting bunch of people with whom I train. I've taught Aikido to folks from all walks of life: welders, security guards, doctors, business men, students, musicians (a lot of these), soldiers, policemen, housewives, general labourers, etc. etc. Presently, I teach Aikido to a fairly diverse group ranging from a sixty-something Phd. in clinical psychology to a twenty-year-old auto-glass installer.
Jim, the retired-teacher-turned-clinical-psychologist is the oldest member of my dojo. He began his study of Aikido with an independent dojo - a sort of off-shoot of Ki Aikido. He trained there for a dozen years (I think) and reached the rank of nidan. Unfortunately, the dojo shrank to nothing and Jim found himself looking elsewhere to train. Eventually, Jim found my dojo and began to train with me. He's been with me for a number of years now (Five or six? I'm not sure...) and has been nothing but a boon to the dojo.
The transition from what Jim knew as Aikido to what I was teaching was...significant. Let's just say my style of Aikido was more "gritty." Anyway, Jim has stuck with me, endured the re-orientation of his Aikido, and is now a core member of my dojo. He's never quite lost the Ki Aikido-ish way of moving - a hopping, swinging, weight-underside style of action - but I don't really expect him to.
One of the things about Jim that stands out in my mind is his habit of dropping to his knees when he's put off balance. I mean, he drops straight down. Not for