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Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective
Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective
by Francis Takahashi
Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

There are as many examples of "keiko" as there are disciplines one may want to study and perfect through repetitive training or disciplined practice. Within any systematic structuring of an art form, you will find a plethora of training styles and formats that definitively and collectively attempt to definitively demonstrate the essence, legitimacy and purpose for the very existence of that art form.

Keiko has been defined as the "polishing of the old". It probably would take someone a lifetime of polishing, simply to bring out a mere glimpse of the true essence and value of a selected "diamond" in the rough. Then again, perhaps we must be satisfied with the sincere attempt to progress as far as we can.

In Aikido, there exists an ever expanding menu of "styles" or interpretations of the Founder's discoveries that appear to have certain essential characteristics in common. I am referring here to the method and manner in which the actual training itself is developed and conducted. Such methodologies may involve other people or not, utilizing weapons, or other training aids, or not.

Let us first focus on "hitori geiko", or the training conducted solely by one person. This training itself may be conducted in a closed room, or on top of a mountain. It may be imbued with a religious theme, or some intensely personal perspective, or simply pursued for the unique joy from just doing it. The key factor here is that of the solitary nature of the exercise, devoid of other human interaction, or need of same.

For the sake of comparative reference, some additional forms of keiko may well include "futari geiko", (with a partner); "taninzu gake" (multiple partners); "buki geiko" (using weapons); "mitori geiko" (via observation and imagery absorption); "shidoo geiko" (via teaching or instructing); "jukko" or meditation, amongst others you may identify or be practicing yourself.

The act of training with or by oneself focuses on an intensely private and inner attempt to integrate all aspects of one's "game", so to speak, allowing for a free and natural coordination of the senses, experiences and epiphanies that are the goals of such training. By seeking self mastery in this way, one can then develop the ideal of "ki no nagare", or the seemingly seamless blending of instantaneous thought and action. The desired result would include the flawless execution of coordinated movement, and seemingly mindless inner technique. By progression, this ability to act independently with one's own disciplined energy, will then be extended to training with partners as well.

Some examples of self training may include 1) suburi with a boken (bokuto) or with a jo; 2) selective weight training to develop strength and stamina for targeted results; 3) meditation exercises in a solitary room, at the shore, or beneath a waterfall; 4) cross country hiking or skiing; 5) mountain climbing or spelunking; 6) special katas that include isometric and isotonic routines, and 7) research through reading, reviewing videos, nature walks, etc. etc. etc..

In each individual attempt to connect purpose to specific behavior, the choices made can serve to make discoveries on an intensely personal level, leading to heightened self awareness, and a self acceptance unique to each individual.

The undeniable allure of sitting quietly, envisioning uninterrupted the vast possibilities that await beyond the next thought or notion, is then balanced by the ability to put into practice the cool features of a newly discovered theory or movement. No other form of training allows for such an intimate and intensely private forum for self speak and feedback, or as rewarding an experience.

People I have explored this concept of self training with unanimously agree that this self gifted "quiet time" is unmatched in value, and is essential in goal of maintaining balance and sanity to their respective training parameters.

It is essential to bear in mind that there are no taboos, no forbidden thoughts, imagery, or incorrect notions that are allowed or permitted to occur during this period of self training. The only accountability is to the self, allowing for instant and uninterrupted bio feedback, review, and to take corrective measures instantly.

There exist no outside constraints on your right to think, act or feel in any prescribed manner, or to be beholden to some arbitrary standards imposed by another person, system or peer group. You are the group, its leader and its follower.

By being on your own, by being totally accountable to your own standards of integrity, honesty, courage and enterprise, you may feel, at times, inadequate to the task, missing that exterior voice that can reprimand or encourage you forward. This exercise will require all the strengths you possess, all the passion you can muster, and all the self forgiveness you can afford, to allow this new self image to shape and to develop. You will amaze yourself with the newly discovered strengths you may not have realized you possessed all along.

Sometimes, when you find that there really is no way out of a predicament, then the only thing left is to go all the way in, by and for yourself. This sense of irimi into your challenges may well prove to be the most productive, and certainly the most gratifying of all the training agendas you can undertake.

Please do not ignore or fail to include all the other forms of training you presently are committed to. Together, all forms of genuine and sincere keiko will work their combined magic to help transform your thinking, your perceptions, your skill levels and your enjoyment of training in Aiki.

Use it or lose it, goes the saying about consistent training. Find a way to train in at least one of the disciplines of keiko each day, several if you can find the time. The very least you can do for yourself, however, is hitori geiko.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
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Old 05-19-2011, 04:19 PM   #2
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Osu Sensei,

Yes totally agree.

IMHO, we often forget the benefits of solo training.

Thanks for the reminder.

Rei, Domo.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-20-2011, 01:53 AM   #3
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Thank you for a great column Francis.
I never trained aikido alone. But I like very much to do long walks on the beach on the early morning or on the evening, going to the end, the lighthouse and back takes me almost two hours, during the walk I reflect and think and finally I feel much better and happier than on the beginning, so that is kind of hitori geiko too I think.
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Old 05-20-2011, 07:35 AM   #4
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Location: Orlando, FL
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Posts: 1,502
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Thanks for the great article, Francis Sensei. Many, I think, underestimate the value of solo training. Still, I look at mine as paired nonetheless, as I am usually trying to reconcile two facets in the process; physical with spiritual, energy with fatigue, change with sameness, and so forth. It's a perpetual project with me to try to smooth out the dualities.

As always, looking forward to more of your thoughts.
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Old 05-20-2011, 07:59 PM   #5
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Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Hi, Francis. Some martial arts are easy to relate to hitori geiko. For example tai chi can be practised anywhere and karate has many individual kata. This is a good reminder to look past the interconnection with our partners in aikido to some of the different things we can do on our own. Great advice about quiet time in our busy lives. A walk on the beach sounds very nice! Thanks. Regards, Niall

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
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Old 05-24-2011, 06:36 PM   #6
graham christian
Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
Location: london
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Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Hi Francis.
Yet again I learn more terminology. Hitori geiko. Keiko.

I fully agree with your column though, well put.

I would add though that many people in life let alone Aikido can be put off by failure.

I say this because as a solo exercise a person starts off doing it, running through how they will perform a move or technique and when it comes to it things don't go as planned. Therefore I would like to remind people that it is not a failure but merely a result of your level of understanding.

It is indeed a good test for your own understanding for the more you truly understand then the more things go as you envisioned.

I loved the irimi analogy also. This I find happens when I am applying all my understanding to some problem and yet to no avail. Time to sit in stillness and enter to see what I'm missing.

Keiko, as you said being called 'polishing of the old' I liked too.

I suppose I've equated that or labelled it as a condition of review in myself.

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Old 06-24-2011, 11:34 AM   #7
Dojo: Aikido West
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

I so appreciate the wealth of knowledge you share Francis. So many of our/your conversations have helped inform my Aiki practice over the years ... and this one is no exception.

I am a big proponent of what I call 'Shadow Aikido' (a form of hitori geiko) ... where I play either nage or uke roll with a 'shadow' training partner. It has been a very useful tool for me in my own exploration of Aiki.

As always ... thanks again for sharing your experience miho!!

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Old 06-28-2011, 06:11 AM   #8
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 386
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

This article has been a great reassurance to me that many times in the past, when I was regretting not being able to do keiko, what I was doing along with and during regular daily activities was also keiko. And that watching seminars at a nearby dojo even during years when I was not actively training was also keiko, mitori keiko.

At first I felt bad not to be on the mat with the others, but then I remembered ballet dancers still attend the ballet, even after they have retired. So I started really enjoying watching, and after a while I started identifying with the waza, as if I myself were out there too....

This is just an example of the many happy thoughts the column has inspired, and each time my husband and I manage to fit an aikido technique in the busy schedule, (futari geiko!) out in the driveway or the yard, it's another step forward to getting back on the mat with others....( " taninzu gake" ... )

Thanks again, Francis for another column that awakens so many facets of understanding... (By the way, did you skip writing a column this month?) Well, I was planning to comment on this one too even if you had written a new one, after giving it enough thought, and I practiced writing about it in my own blog. I guess that's hitori geiko for writers, and I really appreciated your comments and Carina's there too!

Last edited by Diana Frese : 06-28-2011 at 06:13 AM. Reason: punctuation
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:19 AM   #9
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Hi Francis,
So I don't was the only one who missed your column this month
Waiting for the next one!
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:44 AM   #10
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 386
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Hopefully, you will take a hint from us and label it "Back by Popular Demand"!
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:49 AM   #11
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

I very much agree with Diana
Diana you are getting used fast to smilies
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:05 PM   #12
Conrad Gus
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Dojo: Eclipse Budo
Location: Victoria, BC
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Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Thank you for another insightful column. This has had great personal meaning for me. I feel that your teaching is consistently aligned with what I am seeking to learn.
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Old 06-29-2011, 09:56 AM   #13
Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 371
Re: Hitori Geiko, an Aiki Perspective

Graham, the only failure I recognize is the failure to try. Fear of loss is a greater motivator than the desire for gain. Kudos to you for your never quit attitude to improve yourself and your students daily.

Clark, your concept of “duality training” is interesting, and I implore you to expand on it at your convenience. Thanks again for your gentle support and advice to all who strive to grow in Aiki.

Niall, thank you much for your amazing and fascinating glimpses into Japanese culture, both past and present. May we see you expand more into their relevance to Ueshiba Aiki in articles to come? That would be awesome. I sincerely hope that you will find time for those shore walks soon.

Jeramy, your reference to “shadow” self training needs more explanation, along with your findings of how they improve your art. Something’s working, as you are definitely doing something right! Thanks for the support.

Daian, the music of your poetic stories resonates well with the contributions of others that you compassionately support. Training with Hubby, it doesn’t get much better than that. Hooray for “futari geiko”!

I must have missed Jun’s recent alerts for articles, and I was out and away from my computer to contribute in time.

Thank you Daian, Carina, Clark and others, for thinking my articles to be interesting enough to post. Conrad, thank you for your kind words as well.

To all, a great and prosperous summer!
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