A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Monday, July 21, 2014

July & August 2014

1.0 Solar & Lunar Alignment & The Human Body
As was abundantly reported all around the world, on December 21st 2012, all the planets in our solar system were perfectly aligned with each other. For the first time, our Earth, Moon, all 9 planets in our solar system, our Sun and the Pleiades constellation (which is the star system that our Sun orbits) ALL came into direct perfect alignment with the massive black hole that exists at the very center of our Milky Way Galaxy. If that's not amazing enough, this exact alignment only happens once every 200+ million years!

This 2012 event also marked the completion of a 26,000 year solar cycle that our sun is on orbiting Pleiades. This was an event that the Mayans and many other ancient tribes around the planet predicted as symbolising "the end of the world".
What is so interesting for one studying Aikido is that O-Sensei often spoke about the Sun, the Moon and the Earth being Aiki. Here is a doka from O-Sensei: 
The sun, the moon and the earth
All have become Aiki
Standing on this bridge
The great expanse of the sea is
The Way of the Mountain Echo.

Shimamoto shihan of Osaka has been heard to speak of O-Sensei as teaching students to have a big imagination and to imagine placing the sun, the moon and the earth on a stick and swallowing them whole. Many alternative healing theories (such as medical astrology) involve representing celestial bodies with human body parts. One can consider, for example, the alignment of the mind, heart, lungs and stomach as corresponding to aligning celestial bodies in order to create an influence on the environment by way of gravitational force. This is indeed what we try to achieve in disbalancing uke, as a role as tori. For this disbalancing to happen, we have to create the correct alignment in our bodies. We do this by way of hanmi. Hanmi is, indeed, the intentional act that a human has to make in Aikido in order to create such a burst of energetic influence on their training partner. One can parallel such an effect with that of the spring tide which happens when the moon is full or when the sun and the moon are aligned with the earth, causing the combination of gravitational pull, both from the sun and from the moon. 
If we are to consider our body parts (such as, for example, heart, lungs and stomach, having a gravitational pull of some degree with respect to the earth), then we can also understand that the combined gravitational pull would be achieved when the body parts are aligned, and a corresponding effective force would be established as a consequence. 
In this video from the recent course in Geneva, Yamashima sensei talks about the importance of aligning the center in hanmi:

It seems interestingly close to the spring tide effect caused by planetary alignment with the sun and the moon and is an explanation, to those who comment that "he is not moving" and "it looks fake", as to why he can cause such a big gravitational effect on uke without an exhaustive physical effort. 
How close Yamashima sensei is to O-Sensei in his idea, I can't gauge and, yet, at to that point, it is not even necessary to consider whether this was O-Sensei's main focus, for the study itself and the progress being achieved is of enough value in its own right to be interesting and to be followed up with further reasearch.

2.0 Yamashima Sensei in Geneva
Again, for another time, Yamashima sensei drew Aikido enthusiasts from all around Europe to Geneva to practice Aikido. The participants enthusiastically studied together and enjoyed social time visiting touristic parts of Geneva and having lunch and supper.
The training atmosphere was of a typical friendly nature and the practice with Yamashima sensei gets increasingly interesting for everybody who follows what his development is all about. One aspect is the alignment and hanmi position (as mentioned about) but there is much more than that to it. Aspects of how and when to use your center are important details which need to be considered. 
(Uke: Rodolph Peyvel)
Indeed, the practice of Aikido is not just a spatial practice but equally as much so, it is also a temporal practice. Time and space in unison, should somehow be managed and Yamashima sensei provides a wonderful enquirey into that study. All students got tired and sweaty in the summertime heat and in grabbing Yamashima sensei's arm, curiously trying to feel how he cultivates such an immense and effective power from the relaxed, aligned state.
Many thanks to Rodolph Peyvel for hosting again another great seminar in Geneva. Also, I can't forget to mention and thank the amazing and warm hospitality of Luc Giradin and his family who hosted us in their beautiful house in the countryside outside of Geneva! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 2014

1.0 Report on Seminar with Miles Kessler Sensei, 5th dan Aikikai, in Maastricht 13, 14 and 15 June 2014
I attended just one day of this seminar but it already gave me a taste of what I can only imagine to be an inspirational and powerful workshop to develop our mindfulness towards ourselves and towards others and allow us to make a more expansive relationship experience in Aikido. The course was intended for both experienced Aikidoka and beginners. On the day that I attended, we started with a one hour session of mindfulness meditation where Kessler sensei, with his profound Vipassana meditation experience, invited us to inquire about the nature of being mindful to the "I" and the nature of being mindful to the "we", the two entities requiring fundamentally two different approaches of being mindful. On this initial basis, the two hours Aikido practice that followed drew upon this meditation and the concept of harmony being only attainable through conflict and not by avoiding conflict. Therefore, after some basic movement, Kessler sensei presented some physical and verbal challenges into the exercises which allowed us to face (in a "cool" way without getting bogged down by the challenge) resistances in movement, and verbal "hits" using a question/response exercise integrated with a physical tai sabaki movement. The question/response exercises happened in 3 initial phases. In the first phase, uke would come and push tori's shoulder whilst presenting the question "what makes you comfortable?". Tori's response was required to be given as much as possible without stopping the movement even if a pause of reflection was required. In the second phase, uke would come and push tori's shoulder whilst presenting the question "what makes you uncomfortable?". Again, Tori's answers should not interrupt a centered flow of movement in tai sabaki. At the third stage, the ultimate question was asked by Uke to Tori whilst pushing, "what is your potential gold?" which allowed the opening into the space from the "comfort zone" to the "discomfort zone" and outwards to the problem how to transform those pointers which make us uncomfortable into what could be our potential gold. After each stage of movement, participants were encouraged to share what they experienced with each other, dialoging in particular what was easy or difficult about the exercise. The final exercise in the series was also based on a further question "what is the magic you need?". The "magic", being the solution or process or practice that you would need in your life to allow the "potential gold" to materialize. During the last phase of the practice, the verbalisations ended and the mat became busy as the participants jammed their aikido with each other in a free-flowing way.
With some alchemistic references and spiritual insights, Kessler sensei presented a fun and effective transformative Aikido workshop. I felt grateful to have this opportunity to meet Miles in a different setting to that of Tel Aviv and to meet the friendly Aikido people of Maastricht.

2.0 Return to California and Some Inspirational Aikido
This week, I'm in the Bay area near San Francisco and I will be heading for some Aikido practices at Two Rocks dojo in Petaluma with Richard Strozzi Heckler sensei, 6th dan Aikikai and City Aikido in San Francisco with Bob Nadeau sensei, 7th dan Aikikai. If you ever get over here you must see them! Bob Nadeau is renowned for having been one of the few westerners who was close to O-Sensei and documented discussions with O-Sensei. Heckler sensei is an ex-US marine and still teaches conflict resolution and Aikido principles to the US marine department and develops the martial arts programme for Afgan National Army. He has written several books, including "In Search of the Warrior Spirit". He is a close student of Mitsuge Saotome shihan.
Further information about these two dojos:

Two Rocks Aikido Dojo, Petaluma:
Heckler sensei addressing students at Two Rocks dojo, Petaluma
4101 Middle Two Rock Road
Telephone: 707-766-9404

City Aikido, San Francisco:
Nadeau shihan demonstrating at City Aikido
City Aikido
1339 Mission Street 
San Francisco 
CA 94103
Telephone: (415) - 552 7208.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 2014

1.0 The "Japanese Curry" Sensei!
Yamashima sensei, 7th dan Aikikai Aikido teacher of Nerima, Tokyo, came to the practice with us in The Netherlands on the weekend of the 16th-18th of May, giving classes in Delft, The Hague, Rijswijk, Amsterdam and Leiden.
At The Hagukumi Dojo, The Hague, The Netherlands
This was just a part of his wider-spreading combined tour of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany (Düsseldorf). The focus of Yamashima sensei's lessons is around that of simplicity and doing the movement naturally without unnecessary force and, at the same time, for uke and tori to have a good feeling of quality of connection between eachother.
This same simplicity is applied to the wonderful curries that sensei makes. He makes them with a good heart-to-heart connection and always adds fresh but simple ingredients. So, now we know the ingredients also to a rewarding Aikido practice. Keep it fresh and simple!
Sensei Cooks at Our Japanese Curry Party!
The Aikido practices given by Yamashima sensei are often sweaty and tiring, though deceivingly slow and effortless in the beginning and build-up of the lessons. This deception is soon revealed, as the movement becomes more intense during the course of the lesson. This is a perfect way to build up the practice without causing injury or over straining the body. A lot of happy people joined the practice from connected dojos around the west of The Netherlands and some guests came from further away (for example, Luc from Switzerland!). The spirit of Yamashima sensei's lessons is that of international integration between people of the network who invite him to their countries. Already this week, some people from The Netherlands have headed over to Belgium to practice there. This coming weekend, I'll be heading for Düsseldorf for their practice with the sensei.
Yamashima sensei travels yearly to multiple destinations around the world (including: New Zealand, Hawaii, Singapore, South Korea, and various countries in Europe). If you get the chance, it is always nice to combine a visit with a practice with Yamashima Sensei! Seize the opportunity while it is there!
Hereby two clips from the seminar:
(Uke Rachid Gouffi) ..

(Uke Lawrence Warry)..

2.0 Israel Events end of May and Beginning of June
My next trip to Israel starts with meeting the wonderful group of Masatake dojo and their amazing guest shihan, Shimamoto. 8th dan Aikikai. I'm excited to practice Aikido with my Israeli friends again. The full details in English for this event can be found here:
On the following weekend (6th and 7th of June), I will be running a Samurai Game® workshop.
If you're curious and not sure what such an workshop involves, then there is a lot of information on the facebook event created here:
To summarize here, what can I say about it?? It's a two days workshop taking place at Integral dojo, Tel Aviv, on the Fri 6th and Sat 7th of June 2014.
This workshop comes with the theme of love and light! How can we allow love and light to enter, and manifest them as an integral part of, our paths of development to achieve inner and outer peace? Let's play a game and find out! Do see the FB event for more info.
Also, here is the flyer for the event:

3.0 Wearing Your Hakama Properly!!! - By Ze'ev Erlich of Masatake Dojo, Israel
As soon as you receive your black belt in Aikido, you and your teacher are about to begin a new chapter in your relationship. The teacher and the senior students have now new obligations regarding your Aikido learning process. Along with the black-belt exam preparation, the student has to purchase a hakama (traditional dark colored and wide pants). The teacher has to make sure the student is choosing a good hakama and in correct size. It is also important to teach the correct way to wear it and the correct way to tie it. The length of the hakama is also important. Some students buy a hakama with short sleeves. The sleeves should almost touch your foot. The white pants we wear under the hakama, should be hidden underneath. If the white pants are visible, they should be trimmed. Especially when we wear a hakama and black-belt, we represent our teacher and our school, wherever we go. So It is important of course to practice well, but also be aware of etiquette and correct manners and dress code.