Re: I thought ki was fake.
I was very fortunate to be at NY Aikikai many many years ago when I was in my twenties, and we were exposed to both approaches in the following way, after the initial intro the last three months I was at Cornell.
There, the judo in the women's phys ed building was very systematic, there was a numbered series of techniques for each, knee, hip, shoulder, etc. but some of us also went downtown to the teacher's cousin's class. Aikido was also taught but the only thing I remember was flying through the air, he was French, and he taught us by using the fact that we were also studying judo and could take ukemi. I remember it was often hard to know where and how he wanted us to roll or fall .... And I remember the phrase, "Look for the shape of the movement...." But after three months came graduation....
At NY Aikikai we were exposed to the concept of ki by Tohei Koichi Sensei himself who visited for about four months and taught many of the classes. His book Aikido in Daily Life was just published then, I think it's now called Ki in Daily Life unless there has been a further revision of the title.
At the time, Yamada Sensei already had many excellent assistant teachers, including Lou Kleinsmith who had come from judo and was also an assistant teacher at Chen Man-Ching's Tai Chi studio "downtown" as his students called it.
Perhaps the main things we learned were to not be stiff, the "relax completely" one of the four basic points, and to think of your center -- Keep one point ------ from the Ki instruction. Also to extend ki, to not struggle with the partner.
These points were very valuable, though I confess I was a person who tenses up under pressure and have to remind myself not to.
As many of you know, Yamada Sensei is famous for powerful kokyu ryoku movement (so when he mentioned the phrase either speaking to us or in a printed interview or article we knew exactly what he meant) I think one of the subtitles of one of his books is The Arts of Power and Movement. (We simply have to get our books out of the family storage locker!)
Ukemi, I confess, was never easy for me. Once when the fall out of one of the techniques made me feel a bit balky, Sensei commented, back in the days when he had an accent, "Don't scared, even you stiffened up I gotta throw you anyway." He wasn't being mean, I had been practicing for at least a couple of years and judo before that, so I should have known better. After all nobody dragged me to class almost every day..... we were all just fascinated by aikido, and in my case, i never would have believed when I was a klutzy teenager that in my twenties I would learn the closest thing to flying....
I guess all I'm trying to say, is practice a lot. I was fortunate to find a dojo with a lot of great people and a great head instructor, and visiting instructors.....
"The basics," David mentioned. Yamada Sensei mentioned that before the testing at Summer Camp 1973, then in the late seventies or early eighties at a demonstration with other shihan at a rented space with room for the general public to watch, he chose Basic Technique for his portion of the exhibition.
Starting in 1975 I got an opportunity to teach at the local Y here, they were looking for classes to fill the new building. When we were a Y course I called it Introduction to Aikido. Then we became an Aikikai and paid a nominal rent. Several years later, my husband tells me now, when he tried Aikido as something his karate teacher at college had mentioned, I always emphasized the basics.
From his background, he had been practicing Shotokan for years with strong emphasis on basic techniques. Fortunately I always had good people to work with, so I said they were helping me with my homework. And the ki exercises I remembered were very helpful too.
Sorry this got so long, but I wanted to express some gratitude for many people who helped along the way.
Last edited by Diana Frese : 02-23-2011 at 11:23 AM.
Reason: clarification : attending for three months