2014 Aikido Summer Camp in DC
My thoughts on the upcoming summer camp:
The theory of limits… a student gave me a book about this a while back. The gist of the subject matter was that, in any complex system, it is crucial to analyze exactly what the "limiting factor" is at any point in time if one wishes to actually improve the outcome. One can pour all sorts of time, effort, and money into the various elements that contribute to the outcome but, if it isn't the "limiting factor", no improvement whatever will be seen in the final outcome.
Learning Aikido is just such a complex system. Many people put tremendous time, effort, and money into their training and do not show the improvement that all of that would justify. We have all heard Saotome Sensei saying "I have seen you every year for ten years… each year is no different. What is the point of your training?" The reason that this can happen is that people fail to address their own limiting factors in their training.
If we wish to understand the Aikido of our teacher, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, it isn't about technique. It is about impeccable physical structure… relaxed and integrated. The role of the intent and how it is used to give one's body structure is central to everything Sensei does. The ability to get "kuzushi on contact", the hallmark of aiki in ones technique is completely dependent on having this integrated structure and how to use ones intent to create direction for the energy of the contact between the partners.
Another central principle in Saotome Sensei's Aikido is that the connection or communication between the partners starts well before the physical touch. The ability to project ones intent across a space and have an effect on a partner is completely dependent on developing the integrated physical structure mentioned. Attempts to "project" are futile if ones structure is not integrated. A lack of structure is readable by anyone with even a little training. Sensei's critique, "You people have no courage…" is really his way of trying to say that your structure is screwed up and you can't project your intention to your partner.
The 2014 ASU Aikido Summer Camp in DC offers a way to address this issue. Some of the ASU's best teachers will be offering instruction on exactly how to develop proper structure, achieve kuzushi on contact, and project ones intent to connect before the physical contact is made. While there will be a broad range of instruction from many different teachers, I think these elements are, in fact, the limiting factor of most people's Aikido and I cannot think of a better place to encounter a number of teachers who can offer clear, body centered instruction on how to improve in the area. Even a small improvement on these principles will allow a student to get so much more from Saotome Sensei's instruction.
This event isn't just about getting together to train, being on the mat yet again with one's teacher, it is about walking away from the event actively better than one arrived. I think the quality of the instruction should allow just that.