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Well, 2012 has been a year of renewal for me. I resumed a vague semblance of consistency to my training. I averaged < 1 day/week mat time, but began a much more consistent personal effort, never mind my ignorant attempts at solo work, which have been more or less every day. This Christmas Eve finds me as usual in Spokane, where I tried to shovel snow "properly." My lower back tells me I failed miserably, but such is life; onward and upward, ne?
2012 has felt very much like the end of an older life. Some of the stuff I started writing about on this blog finally started to come into fruition; I've been looking at my issues more in terms of a past era than of a present situation. Not that my years of depression don't still affect me, but it has been a very reflective time for me and the impression I have at present is of moving on. Just as I started reading my older blog posts, I dug up some old journals from high school, college (the First Drop-Out Period), and my early 20's. It was depressing...very depressing. The repetitive nature of what I had to say; the desperate grasping for something Good and Great; the incredibly young voice trying to be an old wise soul I read in my words brought back a lot of things, some of it remembered differently than what I wrote...Life's a trip. I often think that where we lack "real" problems, our minds manufacture them for us; like a well-crafted sword that creates burs along its edge when it runs out of things to cut, we must polish it cea
In a goofy mood; here's a very rough draft for a poem:
3 blind primates went to the zoo
felt an elephant and knew what to do
they each procured a telephone
then commenced to calling up a bro
"spread the news" they earnestly said
and each one put the idea in head
on and on, down the line it went
until the truth was locked in cement
"the zoo is full of purple toes"
"no it's not, its elephants glow!"
(don't ask me how the blind one knows)
ribs were poked and so were spleens
but eyes got what they wanted to see
so all were pleased when they looked inside
"that fool cannot see the truth in my mind."
...and then they had cake.
Training has flagged a bit more than I planned. I was hoping for a gradual increase, a nice shallow slope to the imaginary graph in my head, but it's gone slightly downward. However, our household schedule is pretty busy to begin with, and stuff does happen. The half full glass might say that compared to the last several years or so, it is at least a degree of consistency; which fits with my current overarching training goal of "something rather than nothing." Any time I think of training or my posture I take a moment to try to relax and expand my posture, and focus on the expansion and contraction I feel in different parts of my body while breathing deeply.
My more formal attempts at solo practice consist largely in exploring simple movements like shomen uchi and kesa uchi while trying to activate and relax different parts of my body; paying attention to relaxing the hips and shoulders in general. Lately I've been trying to activate my back side more, which was further reinforced last night in class by my sempai when he told me to try to do the technique more from my rear shikaku(s) (the idea being to more equally engage all 4 "corners" I think). So I am trying to feel my front and back sides in conjunction while moving, then adding left and right sides, and up and down, in various orders.
To my mind all of this is tied to the idea of developing an accurate proprioceptive awareness to begin sensing and integrating whole-body movement more accurately an
Finally! I made it back on the mat after a month or so of sickness and other life events getting in the way. It's hard having a wife who is a dedicated teacher who takes the time to bring other teachers up to speed while working hard as ever to keep her students progressing. I was supposed to have thursdays as my training day, but with my wife's work load I've been lucky to have the saturdays I've had. I'm not complaining though. I'm proud of her and look to her as a regular source of inspiration for the kind of dedication people can apply to their craft. In retrospect, I just traded one set of lessons with another; it's up to me to make those bear fruit...one slow step at a time, if that's how it is.
Between coughing fits, the practice was great fun. I was happy to still feel comfortable with the basic form of things because it meant I could focus on what drives the form: soft, whole-body power. Sensei asked me for a kyu waza request and I chose morote dori shihonage. I wanted morote dori because it helps force me to use both sides of my upper body together and gives me a great work out as uke. Similar reasons for shihonage; I love the stretch through my torso I often get.
I was able to train at one point with the senior-most student and one of the things I always love about that is how he doesn't let me just go through the motions. The second I start muscling I can feel the mistake. Even though he is incredibly soft in his actions, I just suddenly find myself unable to
I was starting to think my feaver was kicking up again, but when I checked outside I noticed it was a pretty warm wind blowing. The rain had stopped and I felt pretty good so I went outside for about an hour of my moving meditation practice. The wind felt great and was very refreshing. At one point I looked up at the clouds rushing past and it was just as a single bare spot presented a single dim star before passing along and out of sight: A perfect metaphor for too many things to list.
Initially I worked on loosening up my hips around the femur sockets as I "sat down" into mugamae and then tried to spring into various cuts from that position. Apart from that I just tried to feel where the tension was and to balance it out between the different sides, focusing primarily on left and right. At one point I recalled reading a post of David Orange's today where he mentioned the three dan tiens so I also tried to focus on aligning head, heart, and "tama," and found myself turning/"squeezing" around the fixed axis it created. Regardless of how poorly I move, it felt good and relatively balanced; poised.
All in all I feel great right now, although I notice I'm slouching as I type this. Time for some mint tea and ibuki undo before going to sleep.
"Intercept what comes; pursue what departs."
This is a rough quote of something I recently read which was describing the Wing Chun Chisao drill. I like it because it fits so well with what I understand of Aikido. "When the enemy arrives at the gate, go and greet him." Is a rough quote my teacher gave me one time. I have some vague impressions that come to mind when I think of it. I think first of the need to be assertive and decisive. There is no room for quibbling with yourself over the best course of action; thought must give way to pure, wordless perception in order to give the body the kind of readiness it needs to respond to the "enemy." Particularly so since presumably the "enemy" has already made his decision to attack. So we must be every bit as decided in our actions as those who would attack us.
Secondly I think of "fullness of body." When the "enemy" makes contact, where ever that contact is made, we must have as much of our body present behind it so we can use our whole body to block the "enemy" from walking though our "gate" to wreck havoc on our "inner sanctum." When an obstacle presents itself to an "enemy" he has to go around it somehow and this is where I think the "pursue what departs" comes in. To my mind this speaks to the constance of irimi. I must maintain pressure so the "enemy" cannot reorganize his attack.
In training we have all these limbs and the many internal systems which allow them to exert pressure into our partners, which makes it a very
Been a little run down this week. The lads are sick again, although not too bad. Last sunday I went to a Wing Chun class an acquaintance from highschool is teaching. I wanted to support him and I've always been interested in it so I went for the two hour class. I had fun learning the first form and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of his training style. Train for about 50 minutes; have some tea and chat; train some more; have some tea before leaving. All in all quite pleasant, but I also enjoyed the punching mits. It was interesting how awkward I felt doing even just simple movements. They're very similar to movements we use in Aikido, but not being familiar and mimicking as we went along did a lot for making me feel uncoordinated.
What most interesting to observe in myself is the constant desire to translate everything back into Aikido. I was excited about what we were working on, but I kept wanting to talk about how it's like Aikido and I felt like I was overstepping my bounds as a student...even if it was just because I was happy to be learning what little I have so far. I'm going to be there tomorrow so I'll be more conscious of this ahead of time instead of after the fact.
Today's keiko was fun as usual, but I went into it a little flustered. I forgot to do the dishes last night so I had to rush them this morning. Then right before I went to leave I noticed my hakama wasn't in my bag. I looked all over and still could't find it so I just grabbed my non-cut-off (i.e.
I went to bed early last night so I would be more awake for misogi shuho...it'll wake you all on its own, but I enjoy it more when I'm already wide awake. Driving north to the dojo I could see the morning mists still nestled in some of the valleys, complimenting the beautiful morning very nicely. As is so often the case, I was a little out of it. I had a hard time keeping in sync with things, even clapping too early at one point during hakushu, but once I hit the water the forced relaxation kicked in and the cold surface of my skin was envigorating. When I was a kid I was weird. I would take cold baths sometimes because I loved how relaxed, but alert I would feel. Misogi often reminds me of my childhood because of this association and I'm sure it's led to my affinity for it. As a skier, winter was my favorite season, and just as I loved being out in the brisk cold, I loved the warm cocoa or oatmeal that always went with it. Similarly, I loved the hojicha which followded today's misogi. I can still picture the swirling steam rising between my hands, which were eager to soak up the heat.
...it's the little things in life.
Anyhow, we went out into the haiden for chyohai (daily ceremony) and then outside onto the deck, which faces southward toward the sun and river, to practice the chinkon no gyo. One day I plan to learn this meditation more formally.
Before keiko we got a wonderful surprise! A fellow student I havent seen in probably 7 or more years dropped by unannounced f
The last week I've been pretty good about practicing each night for about an hour. I'm focusing on loosening up my hips and legs; finding where exactly my body is and being relaxed enough that I can feel subtle stretches. Two nights ago I started practicing an older kata which involves whati think of as walking around one of the hips: so in migi hanmi the left foot moves forward and shifts directino around the right leg/hip. My right hip/leg is much tighter than my left from (I presume) my 20-ish years as a right-footed soccer player. Last night I continued working on this kata as well as the unsoku and tegatana dosa practice I learned from my brief stint with the Shodokan method. The hard part is remembering to be relaxed during the day when I'm not focusing on it. This afternoon I took the lads outside and while they ran around in the back yard moving rocks (I'm building a gravel walkway) and eating plums, etc. I practiced simple shomen and kesa uchi. I'm trying to have the feeling that the bokuto is floating atop a big ball, on the centerline, instead of feeling the weight so much. Today it felt a little like that.
Each evening has been getting a little cooler. The stars and breezes take on a colder more severe tone, which shifts the emphasis a little. It takes more effort to practice when it's cold out, but once I get going I'm quite comfortable. Last night I got pushed out of my yard by a family of 5 or 6 raccoons. The last few nights they've watched me...and I've watc
I've been trying to write a blog post over the last few days, but haven't had much motivation. Just as there is no try, no blog came forward either. Today's keiko was a lot of fun though and I think it has provided the impetus for me to write an account of my training this week.
The last several evenings I've been practicing between 30 minutes and an hour, trying to focus on breath and movement as well as loosening up my hips and wrists. I've been feeling rather tight and beginners' keiko on thursday reinforced this idea. I reverted into the older style of ai hanmi katate tori during the demonstration of waza and had a hard time pulling it together (forgot the correct attack for what we've been working on, in other words), and I just felt really stiff and not real responsive. Still, it was good to get thrown around, and I always can stand a reminder for how quickly things can tighten up.
My plum tree finally has some plums on it that didn't either fall off too soon or rot on the branch so I brought a bunch to offer to kamisama. I've come to really enjoy sharing what I get from my garden. I don't always have much in the way of money and while sensei has alway been very magnanimous about this, I always feel a little better about it when I have something extra to offer to the jinja, slight though it may be.
The weather was perfect, as has been so often the case this summer, so we headed outside to train. We went down to the river and waded across to the little island. The