aikido notes

Been attending Aikido classes in Bristol every (almost) Thursday 7 PM with Tony Davis, I had a great time on Sunday when it was a full day Aikido session. Truly a day that I will never forget! And this morning I had plenty of aches in my body but unfortunately not so much that I couldnt drag myself to office 🙂 It was good telling Conan (friend & colleague – and a very early retired Aikido student) all about it and maybe he’ll get around to continuing where he left off.

In this Sunday’s session and at the dinner, I learnt several things… from the Sensei, by discussing with others, and by my own, which I wrote down just for the record.

Just a mix of things I heard, my personal learnings, etc – more authentic information is available here: Aikido FAQ

Note: Uke is the “attacker”

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– different Sensei/senior students teach Aikido in different ways. Its important to not be judgemental and not think “hey thats wrong thats not what I was told the other day”, but have a more open mind and try to fit everything together.

– its like a jigsaw puzzle and there are different pieces which we have to keep learning… hey just occurred to me this is what was meant by “learn and forget! learn and forget!” because its often occurred to me that I suddenly could relate something I learnt today to something I had learnt and forgotten 2 weeks ago! Its like two pieces go click to form a bigger piece!

– Ukeing often ends up becoming like play-acting. I have been in situations where the Uke starts falling down or rolling even before Ive done anything. At other times when I’m the Uke I find I’m ending up doing the same thing, though I try to avoid it as much as possible and refuse to move [to a reasonable extent] unless I’m compelled to do so i.e. I feel the technique is being done correctly. This may mean I’m being judgemental and non-cooperative depending entirely on my judgement (which may well be wrong) but I think its impossible to learn the technique if it becomes like a choreographed dance. There are rare times (when Im executing the technique) when after doing something mechanically many times I’ve suddenly felt this one time where something clicked… and I’ve found that the Uke has no chance of simply enacting, no other option at all except to go with the flow and do exactly what was supposed to happen. But these are quite rare, but when they happen, its like “WOW what was that”. Going by statistics, this has usually happened when the Sensei has come around and told me one small very subtle extra thing that I should do or shouldnt have done. This Sunday, there was a time when this HUGE guy was the Uke and there was this one move where I found myself feeling that I could throw him to the other end of the dojo if I used even a bit of force and that really stunned me.

– But an Uke who dosent know how to roll and break-fall when he’s thrown down simply cannot be a good Uke because the one who is executing it cannot afford to do it completely and throw the Uke on the floor. The prospect of doing a standing break- fall has always been quite intimidating for me. Its been kind of like diving into a concrete swimming pool. I havent practiced enough, using the convenient excuse for myself that its probably just meant for some complex advanced stuff that I can learn later. (Though there were these people, even white belts – doing it effortlessly as if they’re like a feather!) But found that its a very fundamental aspect of Aikido, no way around it. One of the Sensei told me its a “life skill” (I suppose that meant its something that one keeps on perfecting over time). Problem is it really hurts when I do it badly, and the main bloody reason I do it badly is because I’m worried that its really going to hurt. Kind of a catch-22 situation really.

– I find quite often my mind just goes blank. I feel “er… uh… what was that?” and everybody around me is doing it and I feel like this helpless kindergarten kid whos wandered into a high school class and suddenly the teachers thrust an assignment to him. I find such situations are largely due to lack of paying attention when the Sensei was explaining… but of course such realization always comes too late! I think my concentration in my Aikido classes has really improved because I know the punishment if I dont concentrate while the Sensei is speaking… I’m going to end up feeling like a dork! Of course even now theres more than ample scope for improvement here.

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In every movement, there are so many factors involved:

  • relaxing our muscles (consequently not applying too much strength)
  • synchronization of different parts of the body
  • alignment with the center
  • stepping out of the line of attack
  • movement of the hips
  • correct posture
  • ma-ai – combative distance

Its kind of hard, to say the least, because it almost feels like I’m juggling all these concepts together, when I focus on one, some of the others go hopelessly off track and vice versa. Above all, in the pictures of Shirata Sensei in the book, one remarkable thing is the tranquility seen on his face – the zanshin – unbroken concentration [defined as “the follow through of a technique, one is connected to one’s partner even after the throw in an unbroken flow of ki, simultaneously ready to receive any new attack].

Juggling all these factors is like learning to drive a motor car, with all those horrible number of controls at first, which all become second nature eventually.

Most of Aikido is based on sword techniques, and I’ve often tried to imagine that I was holding a sword while doing some movements. But in all the juggling of concepts, this one usually gets dropped. Also the purpose of this concept, because when I was not really holding a sword, I was wondering if that concept merely served as an aid to memory. This Sunday when I actually used the sword, there was a tremendous difference between actually using it and just imagining it.

First of all, my wrists were really in alignment and that was one less thing I had to think about. Then I was told “dont swing it around with force, let it drop” and I could see the subtle difference between these two because of its weight in the backward movement, and its momentum in the forward movement. Then the key and most important thing was the relationship of the sword with the center. If I were to draw a straight line from the sword it should always pass through my center! With this I could see the point of not holding it crooked when held above my head. Or not like I was going to pee when it was in front of me!

I found it useful to constantly monitor myself and make a check on what I was missing. Sometimes I focussed only on the foot movement, and sometimes only on the wrists and hip movement, next tried to club the two together, kind of incrementally in a loop, i.e. after some time would go back to start from scratch. Also occasionally while watching others, I notice some mistakes they are making and suddenly realise that hey thats how I do it too.

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yeah the Gi (the robe – a new one which I wore for the first time here) made me feel bloody grand! 😀

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Some quote said by some Sensei “Aikido is all about the relationship between you and your partner”. Afaik, the partner (Uke) in Aikido also represents the Universe. Its basically about harmony, about establishing a synchronization with the partner.

What really attracted me to Aikido compared to any other martial arts, was a very intersting story about the founder Sensei Morehei Ueshiba: When attacked by any number of people, he would defend himself from all of them – in such a way as to disarm them, but without any injury to them! IMO he take’s Gandhi’s principle of non-violence of showing compassion to an attacker/opponent to a different level. Here instead of showing the other cheek, he’s alert enough to avoid getting slapped in the first place, or pins the opponent’s arm (causing none or least possible injury) where he cannot slap anymore!

3 Responses to “aikido notes”

  1. Sanjay Mysoremutt ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » some ideas about the Mahabharatha Says:

    […] ying to remember them, and simply go by his gut feeling. Sensei Morehei Ushiba, founder of Aikido used to say “Learn and forget! Learn and forget!” Another place I often se […]

  2. Sanjay Mysoremutt ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » take the jump Says:

    […] ts of life – for example when I climbed into a two mile deep cave or took my first roll in Aikido classes [which at first seemed like diving into a concrete pool], but there are is stil […]

  3. fallen heroes? | a common man ಸಂಜಯ Says:

    […] while reading in the fantastic biography (last year) of Sensei Morehei Ueshiba the founder of Aikido, a martial art where awareness is the key… that once while running to save a child, he […]

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