This blog is dedicated to Shouhei Yamagami. He is now starting medical school in Florida after passing his nikyu examination with flying colors. Study hard and visit us when you are back in town!
Shouhei and I were discussing the Japanese word “Michibiki” which Imaizumi Sensei uses often in his terminology for techniques. I frequently translate this word as “guide” and highlight the difference between “guiding” and “leading.” Shouhei used the image of a ship at sea heading towards a light. Michibiki is a very important aspect of Aikido. The captain piloting a ship heads towards the light because the light represents something positive. The nage is this light. The nage must project positive energy in order to create a condition that enables the uke to connect with and remain connected to the nage. If we present ourselves as a threatening presence or a cowering presence we simply cannot connect with the energy of the uke, instead, we are reacting to the energy and actions of the uke. It is no small feat to be able to continue to put out positive energy when you are really being confronted/attacked. Our practice should focus on our boundary of success and failure with this aspect of our training. Our goal is to be able to continue to put out positive energy regardless of the circumstance.
The difference between guiding and leading is subtle yet important. You can attempt to lead, but will the person follow? Guiding is indicative of a positive relationship that exists that enables one person to be out front and the other person to want to follow. I am glad to see students focus in on this connection when executing techniques. Is is heartening to see students ask me to help them determine at what point and why the connection has been broken and the technique starts to fail. They clearly recognize that without this critical connection, the technique becomes a hollow shell that frequently fails. They are getting better at recognizing where to address problem areas. I have them use a “checklist” to go through when analyzing failed techniques. The “checklist” is posture, muscle tension and energy connection. “Fixing” the point of failure allows both the nage and uke to be able resume the successful execution of a technique while recognizing the differences in a “before” and “after” experience.
I will be away for part of this month. Tomorrow, my wife and I get to play in California wine country with our good friends, George Ledyard Sensei and his wife! A week after I return, I get to go to sleep-away camp! I have been going to this remarkable camp for a number of years now to teach Aikido and Bokkendo for several days. Blog #047 was written about this remarkable place. Senior students get to experience teaching what they know when I am away. Michibiki plays an important role in teaching. The teacher needs to put out positive energy and create a learning experience that enables the students to want to follow the teaching. Teaching is also a very important learning tool. The time spent in considering what material to teach, how to teach it is time well spent in helping to better understand “Michibiki.”
The dojo should be an atmosphere in which “Michibiki” is always present and relevant. The teacher guides the students and is guided by the students. The senior students guide the junior students, who are guided by the junior students. The dojo should be a place where we want to be to be guided to become better people through our study of Aikido.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here