Issue 35 – Southern Aikido Connection

Whoa! The year-end grading is just less than 5 weeks away and we’re still settling down from the awesome seminar by Yamashima Shihan! To all the people grading next month, all the best, focus on getting the basics right, and enjoy the grading – but the most important thing is, after all your focus on practicing the grading techniques, DO NOT STOP TRAINING after the grading because that’s when it suddenly clicks that your understanding of Aikido has improved and you’ll enjoy your training more. Ed.

Editor – Terry Mah

A Few Thoughts

On TV a while back I saw a documentary which included a practice session of Roger Federer. After the warm up he practiced serving, hitting balls down the line on both forehand and backhand, cross court shots, volleying, a few drop shots and smashes. No surprises and all of these were basic shots that I could equally see [although not performed quite as well] at local tennis clubs. I didn’t see any trick shots just solid practice where he seemed to concentrate on repeatedly playing one shot until he was happy before moving on to a new shot.

Practicing aikido is the same. We need to concentrate on the “simple” techniques particularly ikkyo, iriminage and shihonage carefully repeating them many times before moving on to the next one. Just as for Roger Federer in tennis, we must, in aikido, focus on basics whether we are a beginner or very advanced.

The point was driven home to me by Takase Shihan a few years ago during one of his visits to Christchurch. He said to me he was re-examining basic techniques so that he could consolidate his training.

Out of that basic practice we develop an ever deeper understanding of the principles behind aikido. The “trickier” or more involved movements become clearer and explainable.

Over the years many students have come and told me of various situations where they have had to use aikido. Where physical techniques were used to resolve matters they were almost always ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, shihonage or iriminage.

So focus on basics, for in those techniques and movements lies in plain sight the true depth and beauty of aikido and the path to develop our understanding.

Andrew Williamson Christchurch

Book Review: “The Book of Martial Power”

S. P. Pearlman, “The Book of Martial Power”, Overlook Press 2006.

A few months ago I was passed this book by a senior student. He said I might enjoy it but don’t be put off by the title. I wasn’t though I was nearly put off by the introduction where Pearlman explains his training process through some years with poor instructors over several martial arts and his consequent confusion. He seemed to have made all the mistakes in choosing an instructor and art to practice. However, from that unpromising beginning Pearlman has synthesised a fascinating book where he manages to logically explain many of the principles behind martial arts.

The book is broken down into four sections: theoretical, physiokinetic,technical and philosophical principles. He breaks each of the principles he discusses down into a number of subtopics eg under physiokinetic principles in one chapter he discusses “sequential locking and sequential relaxation”. He then explains in careful detail how & why for example sequential locking works and to a certain extent its value to the martial artist.

I suspect that at this point he loses most of his audience as unless you are a reasonably experienced martial artist with plenty of examples and techniques to draw on, it is difficult to see the relevance. However, as an instructor I found many times in the book Pearlman had nicely articulated concepts that I use many times in aikido both in practice and teaching.

In fact by the end of the book I wondered to myself where this guy had sprung from. His early training years sounded unpromising at best and yet I think he has written one of the better generalist martial art books that will be very useful to the most experienced martial artists. Pearlman clearly has a very good understanding of the principles behind martial arts.

For some of the concepts that Pearlman delves into, he is not clear, “overreaches” in his attempt to explain. However, now and then Pearlman has some real gems which explain key concepts in Aikido perhaps as well as I have seen them explained anywhere. For this reason I think the book is a “must” for the bookshelf of the more experienced aikidoka – a reference book that you can dip into occasionally. I thoroughly recommend it.

Andrew Williamson Christchurch

Aikido Shinryukan Training in Wellington

For about five months this year I was working in Wellington on alternate weeks. To help keep me sane (laugh track required) I kept up my aikido training, thanks to the two Shinryukan dojos located in Wellington city and the people all-too-willing to confuse and flatten me!

If you’re stuck in that strange and windy city, I fully encourage you to search them out and have some fun. I hope these notes help you get there.

Dojo One: Courtney Place/Kent Tce. Contact Takashi Shigeeda, phone 021 164-8303 or 04 479-8353.

Finding the dojo. Heading from the central train station, take the last bus stop on Courtney Place. Head towards the theatre and Harley Davidson motorbike store on Kent Tce. There is a green door just past the motorbike store, enter and go up three flights of stairs (sometimes the auto lights don’t work, but keep on going up anyway). At the top of the stairs follow the corridor on your right, it should be well lit with the mats and changing room at the end.

Characteristics of the training. I only made Takashi’s Monday evening classes (mostly they train there in the morning). From what I saw, be ready for an enjoyable and energetic workout (i.e., would be easier if I worked on my fitness a little more), a high proportion of yudansha/black belt students, lots of experimenting, and normally the warm-up involves some weapon practice.

View Larger Map

Dojo Two: Massey University Gym. Contact Richard Halson 04 934-7733.

Finding the dojo. Travelling by bus I get off two or three stops before the end of Courtney Place, and start walking down Tory Place. Keep walking and you’ll cross Vivian St, then Arthur St. Once you get to the (student) residential areas, you’re close. It’s a large gym/recreation center on the right, entrances are on the side and around the back. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Courtney place, following Tory Street; no turns to worry about.

Characteristics of the training. Get there 5 minutes early to help setup the mats – it’s a good chance to chat and introduce yourself, and a bit of a warm-up too. There is normally a large proportion of enthusiastic kyu grades. There were a few differences from how I normally move and throw, making it very enjoyable training with people that move differently from how I expect.

Ricardo was also taking the Wednesday night classes at the Kent Tce dojo while I was there.

View Larger Map

Closing thoughts

The Kent Tce dojo is shared with a number of other martial arts groups. After watching classes taken by the Wellington Jujitsu club, I couldn’t resist doing a few classes with them. If you’re happy taking top ukemi they’ll look after you and the people I trained with were curious about Aikido’s strengths, particularly wrist locking. Thanks to Paul who chatted between the classes, taught the classes, and made sure I didn’t get broken 🙂

The Wellington Shinryukan clubs are always well represented at the national gasshukus/seminars, so I had already met a number of them and knew they were nice guys. I look forward to training with them again next March 2010 at the Auckland seminar, and whenever I end up back in Wellington.

Visit Aikido Shinryukan Wellington on the web.

James McNeill Christchurch

Spring Seminar – Yamashima Shihan – Christchurch – September 2009

Yamashima Shihan’s seminar started early on Friday morning for me. After missing Yamashima Shihan’s first class on the Thursday night, I was excited to get to the Friday morning class. The entire class consisted of just morote dori kokyo and I was surprised how quickly 7:30 rolled around. Yamashima Shihan’s focus on balance breaking and the heaviness of your hand during the technique was quite an eye-opener. And working on that one technique for a whole hour was fascinating.

The seminar proper started on Saturday morning at St Bede’s College. The temporary mats where hard, and rough. And friction burns were to be experienced by many by the end. We had visitors from all over the country – from Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin and some from Australia as well. Aaron, Jun, and Akito did an excellent job translating Yamashima Shihan’s words, and though the concepts seemed straightforward, applying them to my techniques was as often frustrating as fun.

On Saturday Yamashima Shihan took us through katate dori waza, starting with kokyo, and moving though shiho nage, ikkyo and irimi nage. All the while focusing on balance breaking and moving our hips. The Sunday session explored morote dori waza, again working on kokyo and then through other techniques. By Sunday afternoon, Yamashima Shihan started exploring other techniques, and encouraged us to look for the same movements that we’d been practicing all weekend.

Yamashima Shihan expressed many ideas over the weekend, and I am looking forward to seeing what other people have picked up on, and are incorporating into their style. The main idea I took from the seminar is that of gentleness. When attacking Yamashima Shihan, he hardly seems to be there. You strike at him, he joins with you without clashing, and then your balance has been taken and you don’t know how he did it. This is just one aspect of Yamashima Shihan’s style that I would like to join to my technique.

It was an excellent seminar, and I believe all who attended enjoyed it immensely. It was great to see such a wide range of grades present, and all the different dojos represented. Thanks to Yamashima Shihan for teaching us all, and thanks to Andrew and others for organising it.

Ben Schmidt Christchurch

Egos on the Mat

e·go / Pronunciation "ee-goh"

The “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
I think I’m better than you!

Hi again folks, me again with another tale…

I remember years ago, (when I was younger, and much more active in Aikido than I am now, by the way) I had opportunity to train with an ego or two, which is fine if you’re the “Ego” and you train at your own Dojo. But if you go to other Dojos and take you style, your knowledge and your big Ego with you, you had better be able to back it up, so to speak!! Every now and again we used to have some guy walk in from another Martial Art system and he’d say “I’m a Black Belt in whatever” and you could tell he wanted to try out his own particular style. We in turn, would all smile (Hhmmmm! ), look at each other, smile even more, then, invite the guy onto the mat. Needless to say, within a few minutes the new guy would learn some great Aikido, and in turn, invited to try his attack again, perhaps with a little more vigour (just to make ‘em feel good). That’s the way Aikido works – they attack, we wait for it, then we perform a technique. Nine times out of ten, these people would continue their training with us, which was great. They liked what we had to offer, and this was also good feedback for us. Good training too (for us) i.e. applying techniques from attacks that were way different from the standard Aikido attacks!! I must admit, it took a long time to learn evasive movements and technique application to counter these attacks. It was hard work, over the years and, sometimes painful! Ever been kicked in the side of the head with a Jodan Mawashi Geri i.e. high roundhouse kick? It’s not pleasant and it really gets your attention, after you stop seeing stars!! – trust me on that! You had to be a little fearless to say the least, and be able to take a bit of punishment as well! The Kinetic / Punching kicking systems i.e. Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu etc demand Huge Respect – fact!! People should remember that! What I personally liked about training with Karate students etc. was the fact that it showed them that no Martial Art System is invincible! They all have openings to exploit. It was great to share this knowledge with them, as they all liked, and appreciated it very much indeed. If I remember correctly, the eclectic style students (mixed Karate systems etc.) were the ones who turned up the most for the “extra” training – they liked what we had to offer!).

Back to Egos!! I remember one Karate student in particular whom I’ve spoken about recently to some of the ASC folks, which gave me the idea to write this article for our newsletter. This chap, (we call him Mr Brown) was a Karate student whose idea of a holiday was to go around the country beating up instructors in front of all their own students! Some holiday!! Interesting person, yes?. Mr Brown beat up on instructors from his own system, then went around to different clubs and enticed the instructors there to fight him as well, generally during basic sparring drills, which turned into bashings as far as I can recall.

Anyway, back in 1991, three of my students and I had just come back from Japan, and consequently, we were feeling 2 metres tall and completely bulletproof. We actually didn’t care about getting hurt, because we just completed a fairly active training period at Hombu Dojo in Japan. (getting slam-dunked every day whilst training over there gives you that unusual outlook on life!! !!….but, I digress!!). One day whilst my senior student and I were waiting for the Judo group to finish training (so we could begin our class), we decided we would go start our training early and train on the vacant basketball court. No mats; just a concrete floor with a thin 5mm. latex cover on it. It was quite hard to say the least, but we didn’t care – we’d just come back from Japan and we were feeling indestructible, so to speak!

We noticed a rather bulky man watching us through one of the large 3 metre x 2 metre windows. Guess who? Mr Brown!! We didn’t know what he looked like, but we had heard all about this chap from our other Martial Art mates around town. There we were going for it, on the basketball court, basically trying to waste each other with all of the acquired knowledge from our trip to Japan. Evidentley Mr Brown was heard to mumble to himself whilst he watched us and when it came time to train in the Dojo, we gave him an invitation to come onto the mat, which he declined! Damn! We really wanted to give it to this guy, because of the punishment he was dishing out to all the unsuspecting instructors he’d beat up but it seems he was satisfied in just watching the class.
Turns out he was impressed with what we were doing and wanted to learn some… but not with us! Hmmmmm… Chicken S…!!!!

Another Karate student we had training with us decided he wanted to go to the pubs and clubs and try his luck as a doorman/bouncer. Hhmmm…..big mistake!! His ego was huge and he didn’t mind telling us how good he was at everything!! To cut a long story short, he had the absolute thrashing of his life the second or third night on the job. He was so embarrassed about it all that he and his fiancé left town! I believe he ended up somewhere near Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Does he still practice Karate ??? I don’t know. Since his departure from our group I haven’t heard a word from, or about him.

Thinking back about Mr Brown, it would not have been a good thing for us to play hard with him – doing that would have made us as bad as he was – and, it would have made us as dumb as the other Karate guy who got beat up trying to be a bouncer.

So, what’s the end of the story? Good question for sure! The answer, well, I didn’t get beat up and neither did any of my students. We had loads of fun playing with egos, but one thing though – we had forgotten about our own Egos! (We have) to keep them under control, or in check, so to speak. which is very important, especially in a martial art like Aikido where students can get seriously hurt. There is nothing worse than some egotistical person training in a group – it upsets the balance of that entire group and it makes people do silly things which can be detrimental to other students’ well being!!

So, here’s some advice for you all. If you have an Ego, hang it on an imaginary hook outside the Dojo door. It will be waiting there for you faithfully after each class, and you can collect it when you leave. Eventually, one day, you’ll go outside after class and you will find your ego won’t be there anymore and you may realise, perhaps, you didn’t really need it anyway!

Until next time.

Kevin A. Rangiora