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I didn't train today, but I did go to the dojo to drop something off and decided to stay for a bit and watch the kids class. Sensei asked a very interesting question which I believe I've heard before but not sure if I ever heard the answer. The question he asked is when does a technique begin. There were various answers, one kid said it begins when you start defending your self. Another said something to the effect that it begins when you are attacked. Sensei's answer was that the technique never ends.
Today I went out to the YMCA where a fellow student is starting to teach. He showed me something so simple but I immediately noticed the enormous effect that it had. Up until now I had always struggled with yonkyo because I couldn't figure out how to place my wrists in the right position in order to effectively do the technique. Typically this leads to struggling with the technique and that turns into trying to throw uke versus doing the technique. Today I learned that if I grab uke's wrist at an angle and hold his wrist the same way I hold a sword, then I don't have to throw uke, the technique will do that naturally. Can't wait to get back to the dojo to try this out some more.
For the last two weeks or so I've been carrying around this thought that as someone who practices Aikido, I not only have the responsibility of preventing my attacker from injury, but also from preventing myself from injury when I *am* the attacker. This is probably very much due to the fact that every major joint on the left side of my body has been injured for the last 6 or 7 months. Simply put, I'm an unavoidable accident.
Friday's training presented me with another accident. I was training with a very eager student and so I very eagerly attacked. The result was an instant reality check. The past two weeks of being totally obsessive about protection seemed to be totally wasted and yet I bet this experience will end up being one of the best lessons I've learned. The lesson is that there is a difference between a committed attack and letting someone be able to shove your nose into their forearm. With a committed attack, you should still be able to react to the technique. This requires balance. You have to be able to extend your attack but not so far that it is out of your own range. I suppose lessons like this really can't be taught.
Wow, a full hour of nothing but tenkan. I love it when sensei trains us really hard by focusing on one technique for the entire class. To make the training even more rigorous, there were only three of us last night. I'm still recovering from the kokyu seminar over the weekend. The temperature is getting hotter, the training is getting harder - and better!
If you have taken ukemi for any of the higher ranking black belts, you have hopefully noticed how difficult it is to take their center. Why? Warning: I am about to go off on a tangent.
According to the big bang theory, the universe was created as the result of an explosion but not the same kind of explosion that is commonly thought of. This explosion did not originate from a single point and scientists have observed that the universe is expanding in the same way from any given point in the universe.
So how does this apply to Aikido? We have to keep our center while doing the techniques. Techniques have to come from the center(hara). We have to keep our center, and the center is everywhere!
A while back I wrote about breathing being an automatic routine. I just recently had the chance to think about something else that I think is important to put into the routine of practice: compassion. It was during a 2 person attack in which Mike and Angiel were attacking me and eventually Mike was able to get to me and put me into a submission hold. It became more difficult to breath and I was literally reduced to doing nothing more but staying still. I was trapped. Arms were locked to my sides. This feeling lasted a few seconds until Mike realized I had no way out. So he let go. It was precisely in that moment I realized that one should train not to destroy but rather train with the kind of compassion that leads to mutual victory.
I was thinking the other day about how promotions occur in Aikido according to how many days you train versus whether or not you know the technique. I was wondering if this something specific to Aikido or if is this a common approach in Japan or other martial arts.
It got me thinking that when you stress the importance of training as much as possible, even everyday, then that places value on commitment to ongoing learning versus commitment to getting something right or wrong. I think that's important. Everyone is on their own path and the person who commits to ongoing learning is going to do things right and wrong. The person who commits to trying to do things right will likely fail to commit to ongoing learning.
A few days ago Sensei asked me what I thought about the speech he gave in class. The speech he was referring to was when he was talking about studying Aikido to become a better person. I emailed him back with the following response:
In the 5 years I've been at Shinkikan, the past week or two have been the best. Honestly, I've gotten to the point where I don't even think I'm studying Aikido, but rather people. Of course Aikido is important, but I think I could go anywhere to study Aikido. I could read a book even. But there is a value that is implied at Shinkikan that can't be bottled! I used to study Aikido when I started at Shinkikan, but the long term effect of staying at Shinkikan has led me to really ask what Aikido is. I'm fortunate enough to understand the answer is always changing. It's like asking a fish to describe water. The water is everywhere around it and none of it is the same. I suppose it's the same as saying Ikkyo is different every time, even if it's with the same person. It's good to have a place like Shinkikan where instructors really care about the effect they have on their students.