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Old 02-12-2010, 02:10 PM   #1
Thomas Osborn
Dojo: Aikido of Northampton
Location: Holyoke, MA
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 108
Competition Rears Its Ugly Head

2/12/10 f [1s, 5v] A I have competition! The ward has scheduled a meditation group at the same time as Aikido. Vets have the option of attending either. On the minus side; in meditation you don't have to do anything, just sit, maybe sleep. On the plus side; it gives the chair warriors something positive to do and the vets who stick with the Aikido are much more into it, the space works better with 5 to 10 people and I can give much more individualized attention. The 5 vets I had today have been to at least 6 classes and had a rough sense as to what was going on. We did one technique [irimi tenkan nikkyo] for a full thirty minutes, breaking it down and working on the more difficult and subtle aspects; hand position and movement, breathing and relaxing to center, moving from/with the hips, proper foot placement, balance.
As I identified an issue one guy was having and worked with them, the others would watch, and then try to incorporate what I had shown into their own technique. The biggest issues, of course, were using too much shoulder and upper body strength, and not maintaining balance while moving. I was able to get them to use breathing [koku] to bring their strength and their balance to their center.

I also had them doing the technique "actively", i.e. not from a static grab. We worked on moving slowly, concentrating on a flow of movement and proper breathing. I kept stressing that "fast" doesn't come from "quick", fast comes from "smooth". Concentrating on moving smoothly allows you to focus on every aspect of the technique, every position of your hands/feet/shelters/head/hips/center, as a flow, as they interrelate in the technique. If this is done properly, speed, accuracy and control will develop, and with them the ability to adjust technique to fit each particular situation, to improvise. And it worked! By the end of the class; the guy with the "heavy shoulders" was beginning to make powerful use of his hips, The guy who kept losing his balance was moving much more smoothly and center balanced, the guy who always got his hands mixed up or backwards was so much more smoothly coordinated and "in the moment" he didn't realize how much he had changed until his partner pointed it out.

So I'm not going to worry about the competition. When we get a new group in I will do a little recruiting and maybe have some of my regulars talk it up. If I can keep a group of 5 to 10 vets, I think everyone will be better off. This is a situation, and best met with proper Aikido principles.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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