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A training camp is called a gasshuku in Japanese. I remember one summer camp that was like an intense high school sports club summer camp. The training was outside on the grass (and the grass and earth stains were impossible to get out of our keikogi later). We had to clear all the pebbles from the grass before we started. Then after the training the black belts threw the white belts a hundred times. It was in the middle of the hot and humid Japanese summer. On the first day when we had a break in the middle of training a woman brought out a tray of cloudy white drinks. It was Calpis, a sweet fermented milk drink you dilute with water. It was the first time I had tasted it. On that hot day it tasted wonderful - like liquid silver. Ever since that day every time I drink it I remember that summer.
At one summer camp there were some university aikido clubs training at the same place. Some of the students knew me from Arikawa Sensei's class at the hombu dojo and they all came over and bowed politely to me. They trained very hard all day and they partied hard late into the night. On the way home from that camp all the trains were stopped because of a typhoon. We were lucky - it was only for a few hours. A week earlier they had stopped for two days.
The largest summer camp I've been to was at La Colle-sur-Loup in the south of France - not far from Nice. The teachers were Tamura Sensei and Yamada Sensei. It was in 1986. I know that because Tamura Sensei signed and dated his n
"I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me." Sherlock Holmes
I'm going to Baker Street next week. So I was thinking about Sherlock Holmes (who lived there at 221B). I haven't seen the Robert Downey and Jude Law movie yet - somehow Jeremy Brett is the quintessential Sherlock Holmes. Anyway I found the quote above. Actually he probably meant bartitsu. Or perhaps the printer made a mistake. A man called Edward William Barton-Wright developed his own eclectic MMA - mixed martial art - at the end of the nineteenth century. Maybe he had been bullied at school for having too many names. Anyway Barton-Wright worked in Japan for some years and apparently trained in Shinden Fudo Ryu Taijutsu in Kobe and also judo at the Kodokan in Tokyo. Then he made his martial art by including four styles of fighting each with its own ma ai or optimum fighting distance.
The first was stick-fighting using a walking stick to keep an assailant at a safe distance. This was developed from la canne, a French martial art.
The second was kicking techniques as used in savate - also a French martial art - as the distance became a little closer.
The third was boxing as the attacker came within striking range.
And the fourth was jujutsu - grappling with the attacker and throwing him as he came close enough to grip.
So Barton-Wright had a very comprehensive approach to ma ai. He said:
I went to Iwata budo supply store recently. The real name is Iwata Shokai.
In aikido we usually call the uniform a keikogi. In judo they call it a judogi - I suppose because they use the gi for other things (shiai and kata) as well as for normal keiko.
I used to buy my keikogis near Suidobashi station. Years ago there were many budo supply stores around there. The Kodokan (the world headquarters of judo) is close by. Most of those stores have closed down now.
My first keikogi from around there had a crazy-looking Daruma on the label but after that I usually went to Iwata. And I got my first hakama from there too. At that time they had a little shop right on the corner of the main crossing in Suidobashi.
That shop was knocked down many years ago. Now you have to go to Shin-Okubo, the next station to Shinjuku in Tokyo. It's a very cosmopolitan area. There are many ethnic shops and restaurants. You can buy photos of Korean pop stars there, or get dubious-looking phone cards cheap.
To get to Iwata you turn right out of the station and cross the street, then turn left down a narrow road towards the Lotte chewing gum factory.
Iwata is a small building on the left just before the factory. You slide open the door and step inside. It's very small - there's only room for three or four customers at a time. There is a rack of wooden weapons on the left and shelves upon shelves of keikogis and hakamas. There is the distinctive smell of new cotton keikogis.
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