Obituary to Dr. Leisinger Sensei (RIP, 19th of February 2014).
|The late Peter Bacas Sensei, demonstrating his unbendable power!|
This month, we've been discussing the unbendable power that Aikido is reknowned for.
Concentrate on your center and you can allow chaos to happen all around you without being disturbed or disturbing. You will have the strength to let go of the idea of trying to control everything outside and inside yourself. The famous unbendable arm exercise emphasises how by keeping a calm, even and centred focus, stance with weight slightly going down to the front of the feet, arm opened out in a natural position in front of the body, with the fingers of the hand naturally open, your arm is unbendable and unified with your body and your body is grounded and heavy, thus generating an impressive powerful centering position.
The famous unbendable arm and heavy body exercises are an expression of sending ki in directional lines of force and are common to practice in almost every Aikido dojo in the world. The term "unbendable" may, nevertheless, be somewhat misleading. Does it mean we are not to give up our position in a moment of conflict, in a debate, in negotiation? Surely, Aikido is about blending with what comes at us towards a win-win outcome, so we've been always told! So, being unbendable gives an impression of lack of flexibility and reason. How we can maintain good "Aiki" (harmonious flow) in the midst of being unbendable is thus the real challenge. Maybe the Japanese term "Ai" (as in Ai-Hanmi, 相半身, rather than Ai-ki, 合氣) will lead us somewhere there in the right direction.
As you can see above, the "Ai" of Ai-Hanmi has quite a different kanji symbol to that of Ai-Ki and rather has a meaning of mutuality taking precedence over the meaning of harmony. So, as much as it is a body exercise, the unbendable arm exercise is also a mental exercise. Mentally, we join our intention with that of the other person whilst, at the same time keeping our body unwavered.
- Lawrence & Ze'ev
Obituary to Dr. Leisinger Sensei (RIP, 19th of February 2014).
|Dr. Leisinger Sensei always smiling even in his last years.|
I met Dr. Leisinger Sensei around September 1999 for the first time during a Aiki-weapons class at The Hagukumi dojo. Just one month before, I had arrived for the first time to live in The Netherlands. A little destitute and confused in my Aikido, I was fascinated by this old German man's chirpy and chuckly comments and very straight-forward approach to life and Aikido practice. "Man muss aber üben" was a common comment from him during our practices in between his jovial melange of English and Dutch explanations of how to move with the bokken and jo correctly. In the changing rooms, after practice, I soon learned that, although Leisinger Sensei was a born and bred German from Hamburg with experiences of the 2nd world war fresh to him, he was nevertheless, to some part, of Scottish ancestory and, for him, it was intriguing to observe that I, also one of mixed blood with British ancestory, would nevertheless choose to reside in The Netherlands.
Many years were spent at the Hagukumi dojo with Leisinger sensei teaching bokken and jo and Aikido. I had many moments of confusion, wondering what he was teaching. After a certain time, I became enlightened by understanding his own confusion and started to understand more and more what he was trying to explain in relation to what he had learned for many decades with K. Asai shihan of Aikikai Germany. Aikido is a refined practice and we are never at the nirvana of technique. Therefore, to understand the teacher and his/her manners and behavior is the first step in unlocking the puzzle. Once the mystery was revealed, Leisinger sensei's lessons started to make more and more sense to me. I assure you, there were many arduous years of frustration before I got to that point.
My relation with Leisinger sensei was fortified on many fronts. First of all, he was coming every two weeks to The Hague from Meppen, Germany, to follow the Shiatsu courses of Yoshinori Miyashita sensei and we became shiatsu co-students. It has been said that Miyashita sensei saved Dr. Leisinger's life around 1996, when Leisinger sensei came down with diabetes and he underwent an intensive shiatsu treatment with Miyashita sensei. With the regular treatment of shiatsu and a correction of his diet, Leisinger sensei went on to live a noble and happy life for another 18 years. Quite a remarkable acheivement, considering the seriousness of his illness in 1996.
The lifestyle change made an impressive example of leading a healthy life. A nutritious diet and, most impressive all, a hearty breakfast, comprising the most royal of meuslis (with nuts and fruits finely chopped each morning).
With that, life-changing period for him, Leisinger strengthened his bond to Peter Bacas sensei, who he had already known since the 1980s because of both their involvement in the forming of the EAF (European Aikido Federation), in which Peter Bacas was the secretary and Dr. Leisinger was the chairman. So, over the years, they went from being Aikido colleagues to being close friends. Leisinger sensei was a welcome guest at Bacas sensei's house on each visit to The Hague and, when Bacas sensei passed away in 2006, I took on the task, together in turn with Paul Jungschlager, to host Dr. Leisinger. One time, he would stay at my house and, the next time at Paul's house. The visits of Dr. Leisinger were always memorable times. It usually involved laughing, jokes, aikido practice at the EPO, the Hagukumi dojo in The Hague, sometimes practices in Utrecht, Leiden, Amsterdam and Delft and there was never a dull moment. Our evenings would end either at Paul's house or at my house with a glass of vodka and some little snacks whilst whatching Leisinger sensei's favorite German TV shows. He would always find something to laugh about and, most hysterical of times were during the discussions about the stupidity of modern day politics and religion.
On each visit to The Hague, Leisinger would educate me with his vast musical knowledge. On each occassion, I would get yet another Jazz or Classical CD from him. Now, I have a very broad collection of music, thanks to all the years of Leisinger sensei's visits.
In 2009, we organised in The Hague a big party for Leisinger sensei's 80th birthday, and a golden carriage was arranged for him to go with his wife around the Hague in grandeur!
After that, Leisinger sensei enjoyed a couple more years of Aikido but, then, in early 2013, he was obliged to undergo a heart valve replacement operation. The operation, and the rehabilitation, were successful. And, he was feeling even the urge to come back to the tatami in the middle of 2013. By October that year, however, Leisinger sensei had been diagnosed with cancer and it was the start of the decline of his health.
I will remember his kindness and his hospitality on the occassions I visited him in Germany. He always made time for me when I joined the summer Aikido seminars of Aikikai Deutschland. He always showed concern and attention to how I was and became a genuine friend.
I will also remember good times on international trips to Japan, Bulgaria and St. Petersburg when we joined Leisinger sensei with Bacas sensei and Fujita shihan for seminars and wonderful friendship parties. These were golden times.
Dr. Karl Friedrich Leisinger passed away peacefully with his wife near him on the morning of the 19th of February 2014.
His most famous saying during the Aikido lessons was "Zeit ist Gelt" but the most fond memories of him I will have will go beyond money and time as his inspiration in the Aikido world was one of the shimmering light of the brightest of stars.