Monday, May 19, 2014

Nagoya Aikikai, 2002 part 2: Chiba Sensei, demonstrates ikkyo

This excellent video is worth watching in its entirety.  In this post, however, I want to bring your attention to one part. Toward the end of this video, Chiba Sensei demonstrates ikkyo with Robert Savoca (now Savoca Sensei, and chief instructor of Brooklyn Aikikai).

If you notice at 3:45 into this video, the "cut-down" is shown repeatedly and Savoca demonstrates clearly the ukemi required for absorbing strong, quick force. Notice how his back leg is mobile - ready to move. The back foot comes upward and the head dips downward during the cut. His standing leg supports his movement, his hip joint allows quick smooth motion, he restores his balance the moment Sensei allows him up. He has good control of the counter balances in his body; a good example of managing balance within imbalance.

Title of the video on YouTube: Nagoya Aikikai, Special Un. lesson Chiba Sensei, 02-03 Dec. 2002, part 2

Video not displaying above? Link to video:

This video is hosted on the YouTube Channel of Amnon Tzechovoy
Part one is also available on his channel (catch ukemi by John Brinsley Sensei in part one). Thank you, Amnon Sensei!

What's your experience of taking ikkyo ukemi?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Aikido Without Falling Down?

Join us for a special Aikido practice...

Saturday May 17th, Noon - 1:00 pm

Aikido Without Falling Down;
The Lines of Engagement

You can practice the principles of aikido without fully losing your balance.

Forgo falling and rolling to explore the lines of engagement:

  • Investigate the moment when you encounter your partner.
  • Sense your center.
  • Experiment with where and when you make initial contact. 
  • Discover how you change the angle of encounter. 
  • Sense your balance.
  • Follow the trajectory of your partner's motion.
  • Notice when you naturally take a step to restore balance.

Come and play Saturday at the dojo in a safe, light-hearted atmosphere of lively, sensory learning.

Free to Multnomah Aikikai Members.

Open to the public, no experience required, fee $10.

Send us a quick email to let us know you plan to attend.
Use the contact form in the right-hand column of this page.

Contact us:
Aikido Multnomah Aikikai  |  503-246-8120
6415 SW Macadam Ave, Portland OR 97239

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On the occasion of new dan grades - A Fleshler, 6-dan, Shihan, Birankai North America

On the Occasion of New Dan Grades
May 9, 2014

A Fleshler, 6-dan, Shihan, Birankai North America
Technical Director, Multnomah Aikikai
Portland, Oregon

It has been some years since we’ve had new shodan in our dojo. There is so much expectation and emotion associated with these promotions. They certainly are a marker of some kind in each student’s life, and in the life of the dojo. But what kind of marker?

Very often a new shodan (or nidan, or sandan) feels a mixture of pride and shame: “It’s over, I did it, but I am also completely exposed in my ignorance and incompetence.” In my view, this is completely appropriate. This is a realistic expression of one’s humility, and appreciation of the unending character of the road ahead. One should get used to not knowing, no matter how much you train. This is shoshin, beginner’s mind, the foundation of carrying oneself as a warrior.

You may have heard the metaphor of the student as a sword: at shodan, a block of metal, forged for resilience and strength; at nidan, a sharp sword, with a clear edge for cutting; at sandan, a polished, integrated weapon. The process continues for the rest of life, for the rest of training, of course.

Another metaphor: at first, the training reaches only the skin; then the muscles; then the bone; then the marrow; then a slender line of energy through the center of the bones. Again, a suggestion of a very long process, one which cannot be hurried.

Both metaphors speak to deepening integration and increasing naturalness of movement, of interaction, of perception. However, this is literally a superficial understanding, because it separates the body from the mind and spirit. What is required is the penetration of the art into one’s character, personality, and approach to life in all its challenge and complexity. Think of the Five Pillars expressed by Chiba Sensei: Centered, Whole, Open, Connected, Lively. Do you think he is talking only about the technical practice we study in our classes? Do you think you can continue to strengthen these Five Pillars in the dojo without challenging yourself to grow outside the dojo?

The end stage as described by O’Sensei is something called “Take Musu Aiki”. For now, let’s just say this means a completely natural, spontaneous, and appropriate manifestation of the art, with no imposition of will and ego, with no detachment and escaping from the reality which presents itself — so much so that the violence of a confrontation dissipates without any effort, and without any winning or losing.

O Sensei also spoke of “Standing on the Rainbow Bridge”. Simply put, your insides are connected to your outsides; the source of your being is completely connected to your manifestation. (This is a piece of a his very elaborate spirituality, but we can extract this jewel for our purpose here.)

In the face of such a vision, in the face of such a challenging road, humility is a completely appropriate emotion. There is an old Zen expression: “Before Enlightenment: Chop Wood, Carry Water; After Enlightenment: Chop Wood, Carry Water.”  Let’s begin again.


Monday, May 5, 2014

New format for testing and rank promotion deemed sucessful

They say necessity is the mother of invention. As our dojo approached the time for students to test, it became clear that a single night testing format was not going to serve the membership.

We had people, ripe for promotion, who were practicing with injuries.  The teachers and teacher candidates who needed to observe testing had divergent work schedules. We were scarce on available ukes. We had potential rank promotions ranging from 5th kyu to yudansha. One night just wasn't going to work.

I've seen other martial arts schools implement a testing period of several days. Candidates are observed over a period of time and promotions may or may not come out at the end of the period. I haven't seen that format employed in aikido dojos. Of course as teachers we watch students over time and the testing night is a culmination of a longer period of test preparation. You can't "cram" for an aikido test! However, I've always seen aikido dojo testing conducted in one session; usually in the course of one evening.

At our dojo I proposed we hold a multiple evening, all-dojo evaluation and testing event. Teachers and teacher candidates discussed schedule and we agreed upon three consecutive nights. Students preparing for tests agreed to clear their schedules and come all three nights. Middle and younger ranks came to the days that they could.

Over the three nights, a large percentage of the Birankai curriculum was called. A mix of standing, sitting and hanmi handachi techniques were covered each night as well as weapons forms. Candidates had a chance to serve as both uke and nage. If a fundamental form was performed weakly on one night, there was a chance to do better in the next night.  When one candidate surpassed expectations, I had the chance to raise the bar on the following night and give him a chance to perform at a level above the rank he was testing for.

As the three nights came to conclusion we clearly had come through the fire together as a group. Tension had dropped, shoulders had melted and we announced 6 new promotions.* Individuals not testing for specific rank were offered a challenge  and invitation to prepare for the next testing opportunity. Teachers and teaching candidates had the opportunity to evaluate where we are as a dojo and what material the members need to study in regular weekly classes.

Listening to students after the event, it was clear that this format was a good experiment. One member mentioned it felt like the end of summer camp; no tension left. Just continuous movement, washed in sweat, revolving around and within ones center.

photo provided by Terese Scollard

*Promoted April 3, 2014

Sandan: Sean Sheedy, Jon Paul Oliva

Shodan: Kevin Greenwood, Sanders Anderson

Nikyu: James Murray

Gokyu: Troy Wilson

Article written by by Suzane Van Amburgh

Contact us:
Aikido Multnomah Aikikai 503-246-8120