Blog 2010

Welcome to the 2010 Blog for the Aikido Republic devoted to Aikido and Martial Arts news and class notes. 

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posted 23 Dec 2011, 02:23 by Dan James

Dear Subscriber, please update your link to here are some of the recent news articles from 2011

Aikido news 2011

Daito-Ryu with the Takumakai

posted 19 Dec 2010, 04:04 by Unknown user

Last weekend a few of us attended a Daito-Ryu day seminar with Grant Periott sensei and seniors from Tweed Takumakai, hosted by Redlands Aikido Yuishinkai. It was the first of what is hoped to be an ongoing dialogue and certainly was helpful in gaining further insights into Daito-Ryu, the fore runner of aikido and  introduced to Aikido Yuishinkai through Maruyama sensei and named successor Okajima sensei.

Grant sensei actually began studying Aiki arts through the Aikikai and the Ki Society before discovering his true passion was the Daito-Ryu, through the Takumakai. With this background he was able to relate elements of he practice to those of us dipping our toe into the Daito-Ryu water. Sensei began class by explaining the origins of the Daito-Ryu and introduced Sokaku Takeda as it middle founder, meaning it wasn't he who founded the arts (they are recorded as coming form the Aizu clan) but it was he who brought them from a secretive clan based samurai art to within the reach of all classes and people of Japan. Ueshiba, is probably his most famous student who went on to found what would eventually become known as aikido. Grant sensei's own school Takumakai is also a Ryu-Ha of the Daito-Ryu and was founded by Hisa Takuma sensei who received menkyo-kaiden (full transmission) from Takeda as well as holding 8-dan from Ueshiba and 8-dan sumo (honary). Thus the art sensei feels somewhat bridges aikido and Daito-Ryu. At the start of class he said it is important to understand what you are studying and change your mindset for that art because although Daito-Ryu and aikido are similar there are enough differences in mind and body that is important to understand the distinction to get the full benefit of training. 

Studying a different style of aikido can be somewhat confusing though its the similarities and insights are what make it a beneficial. So too it seems being introduced to another Daito-Ryu school, the Takumakai after being grounded in Roppokai school techniques (through Okajima sensei) there were differences and similarities. Hard to put into words but where/when kuzushi appears, attacking the centreline and the elusive aiki-age and aiki-sage can all be seen afresh with quite a few ah-ha moments to be had.

Practice was centred around some warms ups that for me see me to capture the fundamental movements we explored later. During technique we practised  the arts of the Daito-Ryu that embody aiki and experienced the precision, finality and sometimes sevre pins that the art is well known for. At all times it was expressed that this is an art to be felt and if you rush through the techniques you miss the feeling and understanding that this brings not to mention the added risk of damaging uke - good advice for aikido too I think

We also learnt that the Takumakai may form a study group/dojo next year and redlands dojo would be a good contact point to find out more.

Special thanks to Craig, instructors and all the Redlands dojo for making us welcome and squeezing a few of us in - hope we can do it again. (Photo Chris M.)

Learning in the dojo

posted 11 Dec 2010, 01:53 by Unknown user

With the preferred teaching model in the dojo being that of one-on-one instruction its everyones job to act as instructor to each other throughout the course of each night.  Learning aikido is about seeing, receiving instruction and doing. While watching and listening to a technique demonstrated from the person who job it is to set the nights program is a big component of learning, the feeling of the technique through receiving it and then doing the technique is where most of the learning actually takes place. I want to encourage you all as uke (teacher) and nage(student) to allow this learning to take place as something learnt primarily through doing (experiential implicit learning ). Freed from technical instruction during partner practice nage will learn faster and gain greater confidence in this manner, though a pointer and verbal feedback here or there is good.  Where possible allow each other to complete the movement and build confidence without the overload of too much information - which tends to just paralyse. 
I am greater encouraged by the manner in which new students can perform Tanninzugake to a good standard after just several lessons using this approach and training with experienced people. I look forward to the years together as we pass on the minuta and ahem…secrets to each other.

Kiai - Out of the archives

posted 3 Dec 2010, 03:48 by Unknown user

Some of the old timers may remember Kiai, the official newsletter of the Ki Society Australia from the late 90's, it ran for almost 2 years, with Tony Deckers Sensei from Caboolture at its helm as  its editor. It was  a pickup of the original 'Kiai' newsletter created by Michael Williams Sensei and co-run by Carol Booth.  I recently discovered the Deckers editions online and had a good read,there were a few articles by Alison Lane and some from yours truly. They are not too embarrassing, and a nice reminder of where we have come from and how far there is yet to go.... 

Alison acted as as live in otomo for visiting instructors (including Tamura, Kataoka, Nonaka and Will Reed), this not only gave her access to some private training opportunities but also the opportunity to conduct some interviews (Tamura sensei Interview, Alison LaneNonaka Sensei Interview by A.Lane and D. Bomford)

For my own part I was living in London for much of this time and submitted not only the early beginning of the Aikiphysics but also some personal experiences on training in the UK (A Budo Bum in London, 1999)

You can get the full magazines here and spot many a senior getting about in all Colors of the rainbow (ecxcept its a black and white production)

Unfortunately though the magazine was well supported, changes came with the formation of Aikido Yuishinkai and 2 seperate Ki Society being formed (read a brief chronology here) leaving readers to ponder a revival somewhat down the track

Santa comes to the Republic Dec 23rd 7:30-9pm

posted 25 Nov 2010, 16:12 by Unknown user

Twas two nights before Christmas, when all through the land
Not a dojo was stirring, not even in Japan,
The hakamas were hung by Kamiza with care
In the hopes that Santa-san would be there!

Its my great pleasure to welcome Andrew Sunter Sensei (often confused as Santa-san in Japan) to the dojo on Dec 23rd as a special guest instructor. Sunter sensei has a rich and diverse experience in Aikido, holding dan grades in several Aiki arts together with experience in many other martial arts as well. Today he holds a 5th dan in the art of Aikido Yuishinkai, is the outgiong president of the national association and has accompanied Maruyama Sensei internationally on several occasions, often acting as his principle uke. Apart from his own dojos in Sydney he has taught many times nationally and internationally, including Japan. He is a trusted colleague of the senior instructors of Aikido Yuishinkai, and well respected across many Aikido styles in Australia. For many a dan grading wasn't a real dan grading with out having Sensei as an uke. I've had the privilege to join him on several of his Budo adventures and have benefitted enormously from his experience, introductions and friendship.

Recently he travelled to the UK and has picked up some fascinating insights on Maruyama sensei's art from Dennis Burke sensei (Isshinkai - Aikido Yuishinkai UK) which he has promised to share, along with other gems gleaned from along the path. The approach is challenging both its simplicity, approach to training and the role of uke. This is a terriffic opportunity to learn from his experience and sadly might be the last for awhile as he contemplates distant shores

Visitors welcome, it is essential to contact the dojo if you are interested in attending. Prior to sensei's visit we recommend you attend one our regular classes to learn the dojos approach to training and make best use of the short time he will be with us.

A Small Country Dojo

posted 24 Nov 2010, 20:25 by Unknown user

Growing up in a small village outside Kanazawa young Akira always knew his place in the world, of course this was so -  he was Japanese. Born into a merchant family he was expected to take over the running of this business someday and to fight for its survival if required. Until then he had his lessons and a part of that was training in the martial arts of the Han (the extended family or clan). The day came when he was judged to be sufficiently old enough to train at the local dojo. As the master of the dojo was a family member (nearly everyone in the village could claim this) there was no need for formal introductions, though at some stage he would complete formal oaths to the school before the local Kami (gods of the village) as a kind of rite of passage.

Stepping into the dojo for the first time he was warmly greeted by people young and old that he knew from the village. He didn't know they practiced in the dojo, not because it was a secret, but more because it just wasn't talked about very much - it was just something you did as a part of every day life. Everyone knew that once he accepted the decision to step into the dojo that he would probably be practising there for a very long time. Everyone was pleased to pass onto him what they had learnt, this was their responsibility.  Everyone knew the secret to the survival of the Han lay in helping each other to be the best they could be. Practice was sometimes tough especially when it was cold, but everyone knew dedication was a part of the learning process and it was the best preparation for the inevitable trouble with bandits or Ronin. Martial practice was tempered with awareness of each persons emerging abilities, so that while sometimes there were injuries, they were minor in nature.

Whilst a small country dojo is worlds away from the rented spaces of suburbia there is much to be learnt from Akira's fictional experiences and there is plenty to be learnt from this approach. It speaks of a life long dedication, understanding the reasons for practicing and the importance of understanding the method of practice. Far from being a social club or business the dojo provided a haven from daily life where the body could be trained, the ind sharpened and the spirit refined.  

Somethings we do well and others not so well in the west but the feel of a small country dojo is something to strive for.


posted 2 Nov 2010, 03:52 by Unknown user

Shu Ha Ri is a term commonly used in the martial arts. 
Loosely translated it means 
Shu - Study the form, 
Ha  - Break the form, 
Ri - Reinvent the form. 
It's meant to describe in three kanji characters our entire journey through the martial arts, though it works somewhat at the micro level as well. Like the learning of music through scales, the artist progresses to spontaneous improvisation. 

Shu - Study the form
The form is usually the syllabus of the school you are in. For aikidoka its all of our kata based techniques and weapons kata as well, the grading syllabus is a cut down version of this. Within Aikido Yuishinkai by about brown belt the forms are being phased out and freestyle application of the forms is being examined. This freestyle though is still part of the form, but at a higher level. By Shodan a student is expected to be able to perform the forms (techniques) of aikido. At this stage the student has become formally a beginner in the art of aikido. Unfortunately many don't progress from the 'Shu' stage, and become stuck and trapped in technique, including instructors, thus ultimately limiting their development.

Ha - Break the form
This is the stage of development where the student needs to begin to understand the forms that are being learnt. At around this point they may discover that aikido techniques don't work, are way harder than ever imagine and have to begin the journey to relearn them. For all of these reasons many students leave the art, maybe dissatisfied. Instead though 'Ha' is an invitation to go beyond the form, it must be dissected to bring about understanding of its purpose and finer points. Dissecting, a term I like better than breaking. Dissection may mean Bunkai (application of kata), exploring aspects of the kata such as distancing and timing in relation to uke, its relationship to sword and staff, adoption of abstract concepts like Ki, biomechanics, relationship with uke, defining aiki and many more. With the dissection complete (is it ever really so) it can now be discarded.

Ri - Discard the form, Reinvent the form
At this stage of development many think it means no art, no form or the creation of a new art. Its somewhat true, in fact aikido itself is the reinvention of its parent arts and the individual schools of aikido are the reinvention of the founder 's aikido. However for the vast majority of practicioners this is the stage where the 'Ha' understanding is reintegrated back into the forms of the aikido school. Outwardly nothing is changed except however the forms begin to really work, take on the personality of the practitioner.
There is the freedom that the form can be safety discarded, the form after all just a catalog of ideas that demonstrate the concept of 'aiki'. Interestingly the forms begin to re-emerge on their own again. Whether subconscious or not the drawing on the resource of the catalog and using a mind body that is now sensitive to energetics, aiki produces techniques spontaneously (takemusu) dependant entirely on the uke dynamic.  

Unfortunately with O'Sensei sitting on a pedestal, many proclaim they are still beginners in the art (in the Ha stage) though I think this is a cop out and false humility, looking around the mat at seminar the reality seems somewhat different as people take on the responsibility for their own learning. Within our school for example, in Aikido Yuishinkai Maruyama Sensei helps us along the path with the 5 levels of technique Kotai, Juntai, Ryutai, Kutai and Kontai

Aikido Seminars

posted 18 Oct 2010, 16:29 by Unknown user

Seminar season is just about over for the year, though maybe there are one or two still lurking out there. Seminars are an opportunity to get out of the comfort zone of your regular dojo to learn knew something new about aikido, grab the wrists of people you may not get a chance to often and get exposure to often very high level teaching. It helps provide the diversity of experience that is so important to developing robust aikido, develop confidence and to experience different views of the art. Its not always an easy thing to walk into another dojo but well worth the effort. Here are some pointers and encouragement for going to seminars, or even just visiting an unfamiliar dojo.

Make contact ahead of time

Its a good idea to contact the seminar organisers ahead of time, its not only polite but you can find out about last minute changes and also helps them to run a better seminar by knowing how many are coming. If the seminar is outside of your usual school/ group you can find out if thats Ok and anything special you might need to be aware of e.g. hakama wearing, belts etc..

Take a training buddy

Its not always an easy thing to do to go to a seminar so take a training buddy along to help you break the ice on and off the mat. You can share experiences afterwards, cause while you'll both be doing the same thing you'll pick up different things

Social events are important

Accompanying the seminar is usually some social events - event if its just coffee at the local between classes, go to these if you have a chance its not only a way to connect with people but also to find out more and ask some burning questions

It doesn't matter of your black or white

Wether you are a senior or junior student you are still going to get a lot out of going to a seminar so don't wait till you think you are ready…you already are.  If your in your own school wear your usual training uniform, if your training outside of your usual group maybe leave the Black dragon Gi with the big logo at home and go for something a little plainer. If you wear a coloured belt check thats OK - many schools wear white until they go black. If your holding a black belt check its Ok to wear in another school, but don't fall into the false humility trap and not ask. In many seminars white belts are ignored by the seniors so wearing a black one gets you more mat time with seniors and maybe even sensei. When working with others and lining up assume you are the junior of those in the host school

Empty your cup

Ask yourself why you are going to a seminar? Probably the correct answer is to learn something new. To learn something new its important to empty your cup first so there is room for the new knowledge to fit in. Do your best to adopt what is being talk - even if it means your using two left feet. Sometime seminars are replete with people teaching instead of doing what sensei is teaching. 

Grey is the new black.

Try to be a chameleon in everything you see in the dojo, this is not the time for evaluating or comparing what is done with how you normally do it. Take note of everything from lining up, the warmups, the ukemi, the techniques and also the etiquette.  Pitch in with the setup and packup  - its appreciated. If training outside your school you might assume you are the most junior person in the room and copy all others. 

Beware of the dog

After you have been to a few seminars (and visited a few dojo) you may notice this phenomena, sensei is always friendly and helpful, but the beta dog or senior student in the dojo/ seminar may want to check you out a bit more. Sometimes this means showing you that 'beta dog' is better than you, sometimes it means correcting you a lot. Just ride this out, once it passes you can all have fun together

Take notes

Seminars are sometimes a time for learning and less amount doing (there is plenty of time for practice latter). Taking a notebook along tot down ideas after class if they are fresh ( or writing in class where permitted) is a good way to ensure you remember key points for later, sometimes years later.  Having made a decision to take notes its difficult to know when to start and when to stop. I like to remove the filter and just take notes and worry about whats important latter because its hard to judge at the time sometimes.

Grabbing sensei's wrist

Hand to wrist is the real transmission of the art, verbal visual and through other people is all second hand. So if you get the chance to take ukemi for sensei do so. You can enhance this by having good ukemi skills and sitting ready to move if asked during demonstration time. During practice time take the opportunity to practice with sensei if the opportunity presents, work with seniors in the school, or go and ask a question (where appropriate)  or just ask to receive the technique. Some of the inner aspects of aikido can be very difficult to see.

Ditch your mates at the door

Ok so its seminar time and your dojo mates have all come with you. Try not to stick together in a huddle just working with each other, you can do this any time back in your home dojo. Go forth and grab the wrists of any you haven't worked with before.

Work with seniors in the school

Who are the seniors in the school? These are usually the senior instructors and the people most likely to receive ukemi for sensei - these are probably the people most clued in to what sensei is teaching so take every opportunity to work with them that you get.

Be responsible for your own development

Right now make a conscious decision about your commitment to seminars and attending seminars. Think about the number to attend your school, with other schools or even consider seminars in other arts.

Attending seminars can be outside your comfort zone, eat into your recreational time and can be a bit of a drain on the hip pocket. All of these things may leave you turning down seminar opportunities at a sub conscious level so make the decision today to attend a certain number of seminars throughout each year. Committing now will help you develop long term learning habits and establish a good foundation of knowledge and experiences for the future. Do the seminars in your school, some outside your school and pick some that might be outside the art of aikido as well.


Being Uke

Make sure your ukemi is up to the standards of the school. Ukemi means are you comfortable taking the kind of falls in the school of the seminar (e.g. flip or breakfalls are the norm in some places). Are you able to provide the right energy as uke. For some its a strong grip throughout the technique, for others its providing a constant energy and centre to centre connection, others schools provide an attack and then are a rag doll for nage. Ultimately aikido is aikido but the training methods to get there vary.

Before and after class

Make sure you arrive early enough to fill out forms adn to help with the setup, Pitch in after class with the pack up, clean up. Its always appreciated. 

Never, ever be late

Being late reflects badly on you, your dojo and Aikido Yuishinkai

Stanley Pranin 4hr Aikido lecture for download

posted 13 Oct 2010, 22:11 by Unknown user

If you are interested in the origins of aikido and its early years, this is the best 4 hours you'll ever spend your time on. Its a series of lectures by renown aikido historian Stanley Pranin

Can't recommend it highly enough. 

Takeda Satoshi Sensei Seminar review

posted 11 Oct 2010, 16:02 by Unknown user

Last saturday, by way of invitation from Chicko Xerri Sensei of the Fudoshin dojo at Noosa, Chris and I braved the wild Queensland weather and subsiding flood waters sneak into Noosa for Kenkyukai Australia's Northern Spring training camp with Takeda Satoshi Sensei. Sensei is a 7th dan instructor visiting from near Kamakura  Japan (Shonandai just over an hour from Tokyo) and is the home of Kenkyukai Aikido, affiliated to Aikikai Hombu and lead by Takeda Shihan, a principle student of Yamaguchi sensei. 

The school has a very open approach to developing aiki as a personal expression, rather than seeking a unified look amongst the practitioners.
As such the seminar was quite different to many I had been to in that technique wasn't taught explicitly and the focus was less concerned with what was right and wrong feet and hands and just getting on with it exploring aiki. I get the sense that rather than being this way because there were a lot of seniors on the mat, that this is business as usual for the school - something confirmed by some of the seniors there.

The seminar began with stretching and exercises designed to develop the idea of drawing everything into ones centre and centre line which was to be the central focus of the seminar (at least to me any way). Draw uke into your centre with aiki and then rather than throw them just release them, releasing then looking something like a throw but without the effort involved. Sensei explained that when someone  holds you  they have you at one point on the compass, you have the freedom of the other 359degrees so why fight, just draw them in  and release them to the open space. This was explored through the many combinations of handhold attacks. Later on we used shoto (short swords) to help get this sense of expansiveness beyond our hands. Sensei was generous in freely using many people as uke during demonstrations to enable us to get a good feeling of what he was doing. The role of uke in the school is to  never give up but to continue to extended you physical energy to nage thus allowing them to explore aiki throw technique that may continue even after the pin to become another technique.

The Kenkyukai tradition occasionally comes into some criticism for the 'antics' of uke in no touch type throws and so it was good to experience some of these as uke for sensei to make up my own mind. It was a great delight to feel the solid technique of making contact and then feel it progress to higher level  where ukemi was felt at a psychological level of intent. It was something to really dig and enjoy and also understand that its at times martial and at times seem more a tool for helping improve aikido through improving understanding through ukemi. Certainly the seminar was one of the few where I felt as nage that uke was actively engaged in providing an energetic attack, taking genuine ukemi without the clash of ego or resisting that is often a feature (particularly when you are the new boy in another school)

The dojo itself is something i have been keen to visit for a while now and is located on a small reserve and includes basic accommodation that would be nice to take up the offer of sometime. The mats were probably some of the hardest I have practiced on for a while and have helped me locate a few kinks in my ukemi and encouraged me to consider eating a bit more to relieve pressure points on the shoulder blades I discovered i had. The day was a good opportunity to meet some of the familiar aiki-ronin seen from around the traps as well as catch up with some I had not seen for quite a while from brisbane and the Sunshine coast.

Well its a whole lot of grist for the mill and plenty of stuff to work on in an already crammed Wednesday class, sigh… I suspect I will have to get another night of training in if I want to be able to digest the influx of teachings, work on them and integrate them…

here are some excellent Seminar Photos from Sue Reilly's Shugyo images

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