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Last night I attended my first "internal arts" practice. My understanding in brief synopsis of how Itten Dojo got into this practice is this: Ellis Amdur has been studying, and to a certain extent, deconstructing O Sensei's aikido for a number of years. A few years ago, the folks at Itten Dojo started working with Ellis to explore and implement Ellis's ideas on aikido.
In recent years, Ellis has determined that a lot of O Sensei's power came from an understanding of "internal martial arts," or "internal training." I don't really know much about internal training, but I've seen the results. The principles work and make for powerful movements and techniques. Ellis connected Itten Dojo with Mike Sigman, who has made internal training a major focus, and gives workshops on it. This interview with him is interesting: http://www.iay.org.uk/internal-strength/related/interview.htm
From what I can tell, a lot of what we're doing is similar (or even identical) to the emphasis on ki development like Koichi Tohei did. I'm not sure about the differences yet. I really don't know enough about what I'm learning to be able to speak with any authority, but the general aim of the training seems to be like ki as it is taught in traditional aikido.
There are differences, though. I feel them when I train. One of the primary difference seems to be a very detailed and mindful study of internal training principles at Itten Dojo. For me, this is the difference between being aware of something
Both classes I attended this week have focused on movement, generating power, and efficiency. We did not even work on a specific technique last night.
This type of detailed study of the fundamentals is very interesting and fun. It's also very clear how we need to apply the movements we practiced to techniques.
I'm forulating some thoughts on the differences between how I trained before and now, but I can't really speak with any authority on the new training methods, so I'm sure to get the comparison horribly wrong.
I started studying aikido in September of 1999 at Susquehanna Aikido in York, PA. I live in Harrisburg, which is a 40-50 minute drive away.
When I started training there, I was single and ... well ... nearly ten years younger. Now I've got a wife and a three-year-old son. I've finished my bachelor's degree part time and gotten a masters degree.
In short, my life has changed pretty dramatically. One result has been that I wasn't training nearly as often as I really wanted to train. I was down to two to three times a month, primarily due to the distance and resulting travel time eating into my evenings. I was driving for as long as I was training, and the long evenings away from my family meant that I kept choosing to not train. As a result, my skills pretty much stagnated or even back-slid.
As of December 1st 2008, I've been training at Itten Dojo, which is barely 15 minutes from my house. I've trained with them several times over the years and gotten a good vibe. I'm happy to be there, and while I miss my friends at Susquehanna Aikido, I'm enjoying training more often and training differently.
As others who have changed dojos point out, things are different at different places. The training and techniques at Itten Dojo are in some ways very different from what I was doing before. I'm a white belt again after nine years of training -- and loving every minute of it. I'm finding that I'm uncoordinated and that many of my ingrained habits aren't working at the ne