Hello Autumn, Goodbye Summer!
|A souvenir photo from last summer's Hawaii practice (Big Island, August 2012) with Yamashima Sensei.|
Left to Right: Kakisaki san, Lawrence san, Heraldo san, Yamaguchi san.
Nice memories :-)
Although I have not been writing much on the blog recently, you may have noticed, it is needless to say that it is not a reflection of the lack of Aikido activity having taken place the last few weeks. Indeed, this has been a very busy period of time for Aikido groups all around the world, at least because the new season is well under way and also because of the IAF cogress which took place in September this year. This event which joins Aiki-politics with Aikido practice (International organisations join to practice Aikido together and to discuss future initiatives to spread Aikido globally), comes around every four years and is one of the major Aikido happenings with thousands of international visitors. This year's congress was the 11th of its kind and took place in Tokyo, Japan. If you are a regular Aikido practitioner, you may have noticed around the time of the congress (17th - 23rd of September) that your dojo had become suddenly quiet as some or many of your co-members travelled to Japan to enjoy the event. So, for the unfortunate ones, such as myself, who could not make it to this year's congress, there is the hope that the travellers who made it there will link up and give accounts of their adventures either on their own blogs or by linking up to their club's website. I'd be personally interested to learn about your story if you were there and participating. So, if you'd like to share, do drop me a line :-) :-) :-).
|Trying to keep hold!.. as Yamashima Sensei makes a very subtle shift with his cente, whilst |
disbalancing me in Suwari Waza Kokkyu Ho during
Yamashima sensei's recent class at the EPO last September.
I've heard Aikido being described as finding the dance in somebody who doesn't want to or can't dance with you. Aikido has multiple layers of learning at multiple layers of consciousness and awareness. One of the most subtle of those layers is the layer of inter-personal relationships. When you step out of the door in the morning and go about your day, are you noticing every single impact you are having on your outer environment from the way you behave to your neighbour to the way you address your colleagues at work and the things you say or the way you behave towards your friends and your family? Are you completely aware of the impacts that the most subtle moods or manners have and the impacts that others have on you.
Aikido takes the spot light and shines it brightly on those subtleties. When you are partnering up and taking turns to lead and follow as tori and uke respectively, you will have revelations about your and others' behaviour and their impact on yourself and those around you. Do take a moment after class to share in an unambiguous and non-judgemental way your revelations. It would be most rewarding for both parties.
You will notice even more clearly how your thoughts might even subtely impact your own actions.
In a way, Aikido, is a practice of psychology case studies whilst playing in the world of Aiki-movement. But, not to make things too heavy, it is not to be dwelled upon as an activity to exclusively diagnose manic-depression or other behaviour-related sicknesses. A lot of emphasis is put upon the "playing within a rigid framework". Finding freedom within the confounds of form. It seems a contradictory notion until you realise that form is not restricting but rather guiding you to a deeper freedom than could have been imagined beforehand.
The genius of O-Sensei is that he could see the big picture and map it to the real world. What does that mean exactly? In O-Sensei's time, there was no official technical programme such as that given by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo these days. O-Sensei was probably quite spontaneous in his teaching and didn't give a rigid structure to the learning of techniques although one does recognise the techniques vaguely from footage of O-Sensei's movement. We, the aikidoka of the future, have been famously told by O-Sensei to go forth and "create your own Aikido" and that's the genius of his insights into the "big picture". O-Sensei understood that the lesson is not in the form but in the development of the person (Masagatsu Agatsu, self-overcoming). That is why O-Sensei is regarded by many as not only a martial-artist and spiritually enlightened but also as one who could cross freely between, and transform himself in, many emerging worlds of perception (indeed, O-Sensei is regarded by some as an alchemist!).
We will probably never reach the technique of O-Sensei and we will probably never reach the insights that O-Sensei had but O-Sensei gave the faith that there are worlds out there to explore which will give a deeper insight into the subtleties of our behaviours and how they may influence our inner and outer environments.
So, where do we start? You joined an Aikido club and you have a regular practice. That is already a start. Maybe the way you apply yourself in your practice can be the next step. Instead of enthusiastically "doing" Aikido to your heart's content, try to reserve your Aikido practice as a time for listening. By listening, I don't mean just listening with your ears but with all senses that could arise (including the inner senses of thought and emotion). Listening to yourself and listening to others (listening is important for tori as well as uke). Acting in response to what you hear/feel without judging. When we apply our Aikido practice in this way, we are opening the door to experience a whole new realisation about the impact of our most subtle of behaviours, actions and moods. It's not the intention that you should try to change the things you don't like about the impacts made. Neither is it that you should try to fix yourself on the impacts that you like to make. You will, through awareness, notice yourself changing without forcing the change. The body, mind and spirit, will simply accommodate themselves to new forms while old forms fade away.
If this way of practicing is already not new for you, then I'd like to hear from you what you have expereinced in this approach so far. Now, go and play! :-)
The Samurai Game(TM). The next step!
One year after I played the samurai game for the first time, I returned to Brighton, England at the beginning of this month to meet Francis Briers and his group in the Brighton Ki Centre on a bright sunny autumn weekend. Whilst a little bit of the novelty of the game had worn off on me, the enthusiasm and excitement remained and, though I didn't know how it would evolve, I was convinced already before the sun was rising that the day would reveal new insights and revelations. The game had already begun, in fact, with the email from Francis a few days before, indicating that the game begins evven in the days and hours leading up to the physical meeting on the mat in the room where the battles will take place.
In this sense, the Samurai Game is much the same as Aikido. You get the reward when you can do everything with your heart and conviction, in the name of honour and benevolence and, as long as you do this, you are serving yourself and others in your group environment, for the common good. The battles are designed (in forms of challenges of balance, skill and agility, and now and again also in the form of chance) to bring the best out of the participants and to put their heart, mind and soul in to their participation. It is no matter whether the player is the best or the worst at the challenge. It is a matter of making the most out of the experience and putting out the best effort you possibly can into it.
The highlighting challenge I witnessed was made towards the end of the game, with all of us a little tired with the intensity of the game, when the Fate of War (the facilitator, Francis) announced a duel was to take place as a battle of aesthetics. The players would face each other and perform an improvised dance to acompanying graceful music. After each player has made their dance, they are to face each other and the Fate of War would announce to both players "you know what to do". There was a pause for a few minutes. The players stared each other in the eye. One had danced like a pro. The other, not a pro, had danced like he never danced in his life before, like his life depended on it. The one who lost the battle was the one who would accept death. It could have been the pro. It could have been the amature. Who was going to fall first? Last year, I saw the pro falling in a similar scenario. This year, the amature conceded and, in doing so, received the Fate of War's declaration that everybody had witnessed the greatest act that a Samurai can make. After you have been a great fighter and put your whole heart into a battle for the love of your comrades, the last thing you might want to do is to give up your position of greatness. And yet, such an act of sacrifice, leads to rewards you could never have imagined receiving. The rewards must be still coming to this person as they have been coming to me and the other participants. Not least, the reward of mutual awareness and depth of connection leading to a realisation of what we need to do to make oursleves truly happy.
I'm very very happy to have participated in my second game with the Brighton group.
My thanks to you all.
Already booking myself into next year's game!
About the Game (from the website www.samuraigame.org):
The Game was invented in 1977 by George Leonard author of numerous books including: Mastery, The Silent Pulse, The Ultimate Athlete, Walking on the Edge of the World, The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei, and The Life We Are Given(co-author Michael Murphy). The Game was copyrighted by George Leonard and is solely owned by The Leonard Trust.
In 2000, George Leonard designated Lance Giroux, Managing Director of Allied Ronin™ Leadership Training & Consulting www.AlliedRonin.com as the sole facilitator training and certification representative for the simulation worldwide. Samurai Game® facilitators must be trained and certified by Lance Giroux before being allowed to deliver it on their own.
Aiki-Move & Stretch Makes a Start at the Hagukumi Dojo
I am starting to realise a dream. An Aikido class with sprinklings of authentic movement, music, chi-gong, yoga, energy practice and again Aikido! I wanted somehow to integrate my experiences from all these disciplines. Ultimately, in this class we are practicing Aikido, but, the way we go there is a subtle bending of the framework of the traditional Aikido class. I don't hope that this class replaces Aikido. I think Aikido is enough. This class could be seen as a additional extra or a complimentary practice, however. By starting this regular lesson on Thursday evenings in the Hagukumi dojo (18:30 - 19:45), I am, without shame, putting my own personality and ego into the Aikido practice. Inspired by Aiki-Jam in Tel Aviv, Israel, at the Integral dojo of Tel Aviv (Miles Kessler sensei's dojo), I think that Aiki-Move & Stretch is a way of making Aikido more accessible to a wider range of people and, in doing so, I provide a relaxed and safe environment for people to explore the world of Aikido under recognisable conditions which are not always considered traditionally present in an Aikido class (for example: music, meditation and feedback/debriefing sessions).
For more information about this new class, click here: