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I came upon this footnote yesterday, about the Japanese word "saeru":
"*note: saeru is clarity, and Harry Watson notes that the word has strong poetic force, and says the best way to think of it is in relation to the clarity of the moon on a cold autumn night."
The specificity of meaning really struck me. What a beautiful image. "Clarity" alone is OK, but each of us might make up in our mind's eye something different that it means for us. I might envision a turquoise beach in a cove, where I can see all the way down to the white sand beneath the lapping waves. You might see a perfect crystal bowl, with sparkling facets splitting the sunlight into rainbows on the dining room walls.
Saeru: The clarity of the moon on a cold autumn night.
It's easy to picture the outlines of trees against the sky, and sharp shadows on the colorless ground. We can feel the chill in the still air, which smells vaguely of damp earth. Searu. Clarity.
In class we are sometimes given an element to explore. Sensei will call out a word: Earth, fire, water, wind, smoke, life, steam… We try to manifest the feeling of the word in our Aikido. It helps us access new energies within ourselves that we may not have realized we possessed, or maybe have been afraid to show. A heavy, deliberate person might find a new lightness through being smoke for a few minutes. One who is quick and forceful might discover that they can flow and relax when embodying the character of water.
I recently participated in yet another Aikido seminar. In fact, it was the weekend immediately following one at our own dojo. Between the two weekends, as I was leaving after Tuesday night's class, a friend observed that I do a lot of seminars, and must really enjoy them. She asked me what I get out of them. It's a good question, and one that has a lot of answers.
I find seminars physically and mentally challenging, and that's fun for me. Training with different instructors, and seeing techniques done in different ways help me get a broader view of the Aikido world. It also helps me see the "normal" way I'm used to doing things with fresh eyes. Sort of like doing everything with your non-dominent hand for a while.
I get to hang out with good friends I only see a time or two a year, some of whom I consider to be my mentors, or maybe more like sisters and brothers. We exchange stories, share ukemi pointers on the backyard lawn, and demonstrate techniques on each other, right in the middle of restaurants. We inspire and encourage each other.
Training with new people lets me feel some really different energy. It gives me a chance to learn to deal with that, and see things I need to work on. At my home dojo we really focus on committed, on-target, intentful attacks. At this seminar, with George Ledyard Sensei*, we did that too, but some of the training was a lot faster and harder than I'm used to. It was a great opportunity to notice where I get reactive, and also where
Here are some snippets from the Weekend Intensive with George Ledyard Sensei, September 14-16, 2012, at Two Rivers Budo, Sacramento, California. (Note that all quotes here are as best I remember them - not necessarily exact.)"As a martial artist, you can never have too much sensitivity. What you want to eliminate is reactivity."
"There are those who train when they can, and those who train."
"The hands do not create power; they only give the power direction."
Introducing our upcoming bokken work:
"After lunch we're going to talk about the same stuff, we're just going to have sticks in our hands."
During the lunch break on Saturday I got to play with the high-fall practice spotting-rig thingie at Two Rivers Budo - that was fun! [Concept: Adam Fong, Craftsmanship: Hannes Stein]
"The gears have to mesh before the drive gear can affect the other one.
Don't start your tenkan [rotation] until you've made the connection with your partner."
A few of the subjects discussed in studying irimi: algebra, physics, pick pocketing, black holes, motion receptors, attention, misogi, tomoe, drawing-in, and collusion.
On Saturday we had a short but awesome class with Yoshi Shibata Sensei, who introduced us to his "Yoshi Sticks" to help us see the direction of energy and connection between Uke and Nage.
Many thanks to Ledyard Sensei for three days of challenging, fun, and thought-provoking instruction; to Yoshi Shibata Sensei for an enlightening class on Saturday; and to Geoff Yudien, Adam Fong, and their students for hosting
[This is not particularly Aikido-related, but I wrote it on a 20-hour train trip on the way to an Aikido seminar this past weekend. Since I posted it on GrabMyWrist.com I figured I should share it here, too. I'll be compiling some brief posts and quotes from the weekend into a single post here later today, too.
You think of the beautiful Italian woman you waited with at the station, conversing in Spanish - the common ground you share. She's in your home town for 20 days, making a side trip today, with her sundress, cheerful tote bag, and elegant cream shawl. Utterly alone, yet happy and secure, 6,500 miles from home. The train calls you each to different cars, and with a smile and a quick wave you know you will never see her again. If she told you her name, you've forgotten it already.
You write in your red notebook, and a friendly-looking woman takes the seat next to you. Thankfully she nods and lets you be. As her stop approaches you strike up a brief conversation. She rides this train to work most days. Beats driving. She wishes you a good trip, and is gone.
You check Facebook. Another friend has lost her horse. Half a dozen in the space of a month. Neurological disease, laminitis, snake bite, heart failure… Best friends for years, decades… And now an empty stall and a broken heart. You wish her peace. She did all anyone could. Sometimes there's nothing anyone can do.
At Union Station, with its leather seats and elaborately-tiled walls, you wait for your next train. You notice the young, rosy-cheeked woman next to you is not napping, but Ill. When roused she's uncoordinated and slurring. She fumbles through her purse and finds a blood glucose test kit. Uh oh. She's dropping things. You offer a small bunch of grapes, but she has to check f