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Shochugeiko: Training conducted during the hottest months of the summer in order to cultivate physical and mental strength, a Kodokan tradition since 1896.
Kodokan New Japanese-English Dictionary of Judo
It's 35 degrees Celsius today in Tokyo - 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday it was 38 - over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity is high. There is what's called the urban heat island effect. It is hot. Everyone starts to feel lethargic and low in energy - natsu bate (夏バテ) in Japanese. But the solution - air conditioning - is even worse. Trains and shops and restaurants are all cold. Humans are gradually being shepherded away from nature.
Japanese people have always had a close relationship with nature. The passing of a year has very clear phases and the rhythm of the seasons is marked with traditional events and customs: like cherry blossom viewing in spring and moon viewing in the autumn.
So the Japanese people have developed traditional ways to fight the heavy summer heat. Many houses have wind-chimes (furin - 風鈴). Even a tiny sound gives the impression - real or imagined - of a slight breeze. Then there is a custom of exchanging summer greetings cards. Some people draw their own cards in watercolours or ink and wash (sumi-e) and send them to friends and relatives with a polite enquiry about their health in the heat. And there's a special day in August (doyo no ushi no hi) to eat eel (unagi) to get stamina and to protect against
I have only taught aikido to children very very occasionally. But this week I was asked to teach a community self-defence class. I wasn't sure how it was going to go...
I have always thought that judo and karate were more suitable than aikido for young children. Some children like the grappling part of judo and some like the throwing part; some children like the kata part of karate and some like the kumite (sparring) part. And maybe the concept of no winners and no losers in aikido is a little difficult to catch. Anyway this class was self-defence so philosophy wasn't a problem!
So I checked out aikiweb and I found some useful information. The teachers on aikiweb who are experienced in teaching children have a lot of knowledge. You can search the forums for "teaching children."
Wind Forest Fire Mountain 風林火山 (furinkazan) was the motto of Takeda Shingen.
Takeda was a Daimyo in the warring states period of Japanese history. He was also known as the Tiger of Kai. He had a legendary rivalry with Uesugi Kenshin - the Dragon of Echigo - and fought him five times in battle and once in single combat (Takeda used a tessen - an iron fan - against Uesugi's katana). Takeda Shingen is still enormously admired and popular in Japan (in fact they both are). You can still go to onsens - hot springs - where he went to recover after battles - the minerals in the water are supposed to help sword wounds to heal faster.
His motto, which was on his war banners, was: swift as the wind, silent as a forest, fierce as fire, immovable as a mountain (move as swiftly as the wind, be as silent as a forest, attack as fiercely as fire, defend as immovably as a mountain).
The phrase originally came from the Art of War by Sun Tzu. They were Takeda Shingen's principles of strategy - long-range planning - and also his principles of tactics - how to fight in a battle.
These four concepts have parallels with the elements. In Buddhism the elements were considered to be earth, water, fire and air. Surprisingly these four elements (with the addition of ether) are the same as the elements in classical Greek thought (and the same four elements were associated with the four humours or personality types: melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric and sanguine
If you don't believe in magic you might want to stop reading this now.
I'm not talking about the Magic of an Aikido Throw. The magic I saw when I saw my teacher Asoh Sensei in his seventies effortlessly tossing a big ex-marine around like a slice of bread.
That wasn't magic. That was kokyu ryoku.
And I'm not talking about the Magic of the Disappearing Aikidoka. I went to a summer camp in La Colle-sur-Loup in the south of France in the eighties with Yamada Sensei and Tamura Sensei. One of my roommates training beside me whispered to me, "Hey, my partner keeps disappearing!" So I watched and sure enough at the moment of the strike my friend blinked and his partner used that instant to disappear behind him. Maybe that was what ninja used to give the impression of invisibility.
That wasn't magic. That was timing and misdirection.
And I'm not talking about the Magic of the Healed Wrist. Once I had injured my wrist and training was extremely painful. On Wednesday evenings I was the uke for Arikawa Sensei for two classes at the Aikikai hombu dojo. Arikawa Sensei was the best teacher at the hombu dojo and I was his uke for many years. He was a feared teacher and his waza were unforgiving. So that week I taped my wrist visibly and hoped he would take the hint. No chance. That night he did mostly kote gaeshi and shiho nage. And mostly on the injured wrist. I wasn't really surprised that he attacked the wrist. When I started taking the ukemi for him in 1990 my hair was
It was the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration on 22 May 2010. Years ago Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei used to stand inside the entrance of the Budokan in an immaculate white suit greeting everyone with a big warm smile.
Then later on he used to do his demonstration. He did it at the same time as Masando Sasaki Sensei. As Watanabe Sensei got more and more into it and started throwing his ukes just by glaring at them Sasaki Sensei would hear the sounds of the crowd and would stop his own demonstration to watch. And applaud.
In the nineteen eighties in Japan there was a boom of interest in martial arts and especially in internal martial arts and ki. Kozo Nishino Sensei, a well-known ballet teacher and choreographer who had done aikido at the hombu dojo, became famous for his ki performances throwing numbers of his students without touching them. Also Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei appeared on a TV program called Do-sports doing no-touch aikido. Perhaps Yoshinobu Takeda Sensei didn't start demonstrating this style of aikido until more recently.
I have never met Nishino Sensei. Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba talked about Nishino Sensei's no-touch aikido when my teacher Kinjo Asoh Sensei and I called on him once. The Doshu remembered Nishino Sensei's orthodox aikido as having been strong and powerful - he had been about fifth dan in those days. But the Doshu merely mentioned his no-touch throws as just another approach - he was not critical.
I have known Yoshinobu Takeda Sensei for many
After training we say thank you to our teachers and to our partners and to our students.
In Japanese there are a few ways to say thank you. By the way often the u is omitted in writing Japanese into English - Tokyo is normal, not Toukyou, and of course so is judo, not juudou, but I have put it in to make the words easier to pronounce. Here are seven different ways to say thank you. It's no wonder we get confused. For budo you can usually forget the first five. And please say thank you the way your teacher tells you or you'll get me into trouble.
"Arigatou," is quite casual.
"Doumo," is even more casual.
"Doumo arigatou" is casual too but a little stronger.
"Arigatou gozaimasu" is "Thank you" in the present tense. So it has a kind of implied feeling of a continuing connection or relationship. And if you add Doumo at the beginning "Doumo arigatou gozaimasu" roughly means "Thank you very much."
"Arigatou gozaimashita" is "Thank you" in the past tense. So we use it for something that's finished or when a result has become clear. So in normal social interaction it is rarer than Arigatou gozaimasu. But it is the one that is appropriate for keiko. It was difficult for me to catch the nuance of difference between these two.
"Doumo arigatou gozaimashita" is a little more polite maybe and is only used to people (so not to the dojo) to say "Thank you very much" for something that is over.
In budo after training even though of course we do have ongoing connections b
Last week I left a book on a subway train in Tokyo. I was very disappointed because I was half-way through it and it was an old Penguin paperback that was probably irreplaceable.
But anyway the next day I went through the same station and I asked the man at the ticket barrier if a book had been handed in. He telephoned to a lost and found office and they had it there! I was so pleased. So thank you Tokyo Metro. But suddenly it reminded me of my teacher's lapis lazuli ring.
My first teacher Kinjo Asoh Sensei always wore a striking lapis ring. It was a little unusual - older Japanese men are normally quite conservative about jewellery. After Asoh Sensei died his wife gave it to me. It's a beautiful ring and the stone is vivid blue. I have often been complimented on it even by complete strangers. I don't really like to wear it too much because I don't want to lose it at training. So usually I leave it at home safe in a drawer.
Then one day I was burgled. The guy broke the balcony window to get in and even took his shoes off. He took some cash. And the ring. I was devastated. I should have worn it and taken my chances at the dojo. The only good thing to come out of it was I got to see the Japanese police at work taking fingerprints.
About a year later a detective came round. He smiled and he gave me the ring! They had caught the guy. The ring was clear evidence and he confessed to a number of robberies.
I still don't wear the ring every day. I'm still concerned t
I went to a sports doctor once for an elbow injury. He's a very good doctor. He looked at the x-ray carefully and then he asked me, "Do you do aikido?" "Wow," I thought to myself, "this guy is good!" Then he told me he had only seen bone spurs in an elbow like that once before. In an aikido teacher.
Let's be honest. Shiho nage is a dangerous technique. Done incorrectly by an inexperienced aikidoka who doesn't understand the technique it can put severe stress on the elbow joint. Done incorrectly by a more experienced aikidoka who is starting to understand the technique it can cause long-lasting damage. At the Aikikai hombu dojo I have seen people have to stop their training in the middle of the lesson after getting injured with an uncontrolled shiho nage.
So in fact I only teach it to experienced aikidoka. There's the paradox. If I only teach shiho nage to experienced aikidoka how do the inexperienced aikidoka get to be experienced aikidoka?
It's a kind of zen mondo or koan - an existential riddle of aikido.
So what's the answer?
Well if I told you that it wouldn't be a paradox any more, would it.
In February this year a friend of mine died. He was a big wide man, with a big presence and a big heart. I first met him 25 years ago when he came to Japan to study aikido. He played the guitar in the street for money in the early years (and he had to be careful of the yakuza who took protection money from street sellers). He had a great voice.
Whenever he saw a new face in the Aikikai hombu dojo he would wonder over after the lesson and say, "Howdy!" He must have said it hundreds - probably thousands - of times to students who came to Japan to train. Many people will remember him with affection.
He was a very kind, gentle, pure, almost unworldly man. He thought carefully about aikido from a self-defence perspective. Sometimes he would ask me about a technique and how it could be used practically on the street. And murmur to himself that he would have to remember it so he could tell the guys in his dojo in New York. Del had a fond picture in his head of Arikawa Sensei walking through Central Park throwing unsuspecting muggers left and right.
Del's Christian faith was very important to him. He wouldn't do aikido on a Sunday and he had trouble with some of the bowing in aikido - especially the Shinto style of repeated bowing and clapping. He sang in the choir at his church. I went to his funeral there and there was a lot of love for him. He was a man who had lived every day full of love for other people.
Sometimes I hear a guitar in the street in Tokyo and just
I once asked Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Aikikai 9 dan) about ashiwaza (leg or foot techniques) in aikido. He looked surprised for a moment and then he said categorically there are no ashiwaza in aikido.
Okumura Sensei had a kind of analytical and systematic approach to aikido. He would ask things like how many ways can you take uke's wrist when you're being held in katatedori (hand inside uke's hand with your thumb up, hand outside uke's hand with your thumb down...). And you would always forget one.
So he thought that if there was an ashiwaza in there somewhere it wasn't aikido. But I don't think we need to be rigid about it. Some teachers do use ashiwaza occasionally. And in some styles they are actually normal techniques. I was invited to train as a guest in an offshoot of Tomiki Aikido once and they used ashi waza as a matter of course (along with ippon seoi nage - another judo waza). So I want to talk about a few of the sub-techniques - the techniques within the techniques - from judo (and karate) we can use in aikido (with some pretty random videos). These techniques are only components of the overall aikido techniques and unlike judo they can often be done without a grip on the uke. The connection (musubi) is through the energy of the uke's attack.