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I find that everything in my life spirals and returns to things. At the risk of sounding like a samurai wannabe, my life is spiraling back to Bushido.
I know all the arguments surrounding Bushido; I won't get in those except to say that I've read everything in English on the subject that I can get my paws on. I am aware of them.
O-Sensei said :"Even though our path is completely different from the warrior arts of the past, it is not necessary to totally abandon the old ways, absorb venerable traditions into this new art by clothing them with fresh garments, and build on the classic styles to create better forms."
I suppose I was 13 or 14 when I started getting into Bushido, or reading about it should I say. Seems like a billion years ago and a totally different world.
For various reasons I certainly felt like I was living in death; there was something about Bushido shoshinbu and hagakure, the immediacy that mirrored my psychology. The bushi knew they were probably going to get killed soon, how they lived was important how they faced death was important. It translated into my life at the time. When you know you're going to get the shit kicked out of you, how you face getting the shit kicked out of you becomes important and the bits in between you learn to make the most of.
It was the only place that said that a conflict you're inevitably going to loose still has value, it could even be beautiful. You could actually win on a certain level despite physically loosing.
I think it was Ledyard Sensei who said that many people drop out around shodan because they realise that to continue means changing and that is too scary too them.
I think I'm right there at the moment. There are bits of me that need to die. I feel, have felt for a while, that I'm like a butterfly in it's cocoon just waiting to spring out. It's not that changing scares me so much, I need and want to do it, but I need a push.
It's like I'm waiting for something. I feel that quote from O-Sensei about how if we're not always growing we're as good as dead, I feel it heavily on my mind.
I can't go on as I am, that's for sure. I'll end up dead. The old me is dead, or dying, it just needs finishing off.
We've moved to this new dojo, well we've been there a couple of months. One of the plus sides to this new place is like the original dojo it has mirrors so one can admire how awesomely one can screw up and when Sensei yells "What was that?" you actually see how bad it was.
I hardly recognise myself. There's this rather muscular guy looking back at me all the time and he moves around with confidence, sits with confidence and his posture is bloody good.
It's odd being where I am. I remember back when I first started martial arts there were these guys, the seniors, and they knew everything and they were good at everything and they seemed like amazing people. I remember saying to myself "I wish I could be more like such and such." They seemed to have limitless knowledge about the art and they were most definately insiders, they weren't just members of the dojo, they were the dojo.
Now when we're lined up at the end I see one of these people, these seniors and it's me. I find that people want my advice on things. It's so odd when someone twice your age with kids and a ton more life experience wants to know what to do on a grading or how something should be done.
I would naturally make some throw away comment, but these days I find I can't do that, I have to be responsible about how and what I say because they're as much looking for encouragement and to see my attitude to things as they are looking for a technical answer.
So three guys come in the dojo and want to see Aikido against boxing attacks, which are presumably realistic. Boxing was again demonstrated to be epic fail.
I don't get why so many people invest so much time in trying to make every technique work against jabs and stuff because boxing really isn't that effective. There's this thread about doing kote gaeshi from a punch. You may as well invest time in figuring out how to fight a swordsman with a spoon when you have a gun.
I hate to get philosophical but the mentality of "I will do this technique" is imposing your will rather than creating harmony. He does whatever and you harmonise with it. In the case of a boxer he throws a jab which is deflected from your guard and then you shake him warmly by the throat as you tenchi nage him through the floor.
I digress, I have been drinking after all. So yeah, boxing was quickly demonstrated to be an interesting but pointless way of doing things. Occasionally we get thai boxers in and they try their stuff and we bounce them up and down the mat and they never come back after that.
I didn't go but my instructor did. I was having afternoon tea with a friend on saturday who I train with and we started making the usual jokes about courses.
The four big ones are:
The course will be acclaimed as being very good and the instructor will only have taught basics.
There will be no change in the basics, but the ukemi will have become more flowery, elaborate and require uke to do a lot more and require tori to be sloppy to allow uke to do this.
Nothing will actually be explained.
Great excitement will be expressed that shockingly our Aikido is STILL just like Doshu's. This is confirmed several times a year and is still a great source of excitement.
So we went training last night and sure enough now we're taking six more steps on our ukemi with no clue why. I did ask Sensei, got into an argument actually. Sure enough Doshu did basics and nothing but.
I honestly wonder just what's going on at hombu. Everytime we come into contact with someone from hombu nothing changes in the technique but the ukemi becomes incredibly daft. I mean jodan irimi nage modified so that uke can take two steps back and chuck themselves across the mat? Why?
This is what caused the argument: if you ask me as uke to take two steps back and I end up back on posture and back on balance then I will just stand up. It would be dishonest not to. Frankly if you ask me to take two steps back I will always step back on posture, this is why we always completed the throw at the
I'm not nervous or anxious about tommorrow but I am concerned. I have this feeling. We're putting on a demo with another club, that's all well and good we share the same building, are in the same association, instructors are good friends yada yada.
What worries me is the content of the demo; everyone seems to be focused on weapons work. I'm sorry but Aikidoka just don't do Aikido demos all that well; they're always done as if Joe Blogs walking in off the street is an Aikidoka.
I feel this sense of real frustration because if I'm going to see a martial arts demo I want to see the art demonstrated; I don't want to see the training demonstrated. A thai boxer laying into a kick bag isn't all that interesting and the fact that you could get twenty karateka to do heian shodan in unison isn't all that impressive; I can get the local dance troop to do that and it would be no relflection on their martial skill.
It fails the "and what?" test. You can swing a stick around in a vaugely interesting manner, and what? You can do it in unison with a group of other people, and what? A demonstration is not entertainment; it's education; it's explaining to the layman why they should take up Aikido.
All is not lost, supposedly us kyu grades have to think of something we want to demonstrate on the basis that people expect dan grades to be good and want to see what kyu grades can do.
I might see if I can find a sixth kyu and spend 15 minutes teaching them to flatten me while I demons
I'm doing stuff, throwing guys that are so much bigger than me. When I try to throw them I can't, they wobble a bit and then they throw me.
But then I relax and I dance the technique; that's the only way I can describe it and they go flying. This massive groan comes out of them and I look around and they're in mid air and there's this look of shock in their eyes when they land.
The harder I try the less powerful I am. Then when I decide I'm gods gift to Aikido and that I can throw people just by touching them sure enough they go. Emotional state has so much to do with it.
I don't know how I do this though.
The only thing is I'm crap. Compared to my instructor and my seniors I'm rubbish.
Bear in mind as I write this that I've been drinking for 12 hours. Yeah.
So, as happens when we drink we started talking and one thing came out. We don't feel ready to teach. We don't feel qualified. At 1st kyu after seven years we doubt our ability to get someone up to 6th kyu level.