3 10 2014

The time has arrived!

Tonight I will leave for my serious holidays: 2 full weeks in Indonesia.

First week focused on Aikido in Solo and in Jakarta, with Irie sensei, long missed practice!

Then I will transfer to the south, to Bali, where I will meet two great Italian friends that had visited me over here for the King’s Day, and it will be for sure lots more fun! And some exciting discoveries of a place new for all the three of us!

I am rough!?!

25 09 2014

Think about a good timed out ai hanmi katatedori attack met properly before uke stops the movement forward, directing the energy to enter for ikkyo with a partial tenkan movement followed by a downward cut to take the first balance off uke, and positioning my free hand on my partner elbow, not gripping (never!), just feeling the elbow bone.

At that point, when uke tried to get up, my years of Endo sensei practice kicked in and I went in auto-pilot mode, so instead of doing the showed technique (that required a long step backwards and “sort of pulling uke with you”) I just used the elbow contact to redirect at once the upward energy and then leading uke straight down on the mats.

We are talking about Aikido, yeah, and last night practice with a yudansha in the local dojo, where I try to fit at best attempting always to perform a technique closest possible to the one showed by the instructor even when different from what I am more used and confident in doing. Even if when I think it goes against everything I believe, because it is not my dojo, not my style and I am basically still a visitor passing by.

My partner in the above description, taken by extremely surprised (probably expecting in both body and mind the movement they are used to do here), looked at me in a weird way and when asked if everything was alright, said: “You are (a bit) rough!“…

The comment annoyed me quite a bit and during the following minutes of practice I realized a nice improvement in myself: even feeling annoyed (can’t say really angry), this remained in my mind, while I could keep my center and Aikido totally relaxed taking an extra care of my partner and focusing more on their Aikido (way rougher from my point of view), but trying to not surprise the person I practiced with. This detachment was actually a good surprise!

At the same time I started thinking about how I did/do/would react when facing some new forms/schools of Aikido, when without a deep understanding of how they do something and why, I just feel the differences and end up in thinking different executions are rougher than what I am used to. But then I often got motivations to get a deeper look/understanding.

Among the several kind of Aikido I did practice in my life I have troubles identifying as rough the path I follow when I do not think, when I just do things as they come. But I can agree that if people is taken by surprise and suddenly out of their own path into a parallel road to the same target they might feel this as an unwanted disruption of their own peace. Resulting then in thinking something rough happened related to a different Aikido form. Or this is the way I did rationalize.

Also the school followed by this dojo is an extremely structured and formalized one, with several variations and entrances of the same technique/attack, all finely codified, and all of this is part of their graduation syllabus (reminded me a little of some Iwama Ryu seminars with like 15 variations of morote dori shihonage omote). I saw that people practicing so well formalized schools have usually more problems to “step out of it” for a tiny moment. I do not mean they do not go to seminars under different teachers: they do that and the teacher has crossed my Aikido senseis’ path more than once. But during the execution of a technique, if something does not go in the way they expect it, they have a much higher inertia to adapt to variation of style than.. me, us, “my” people..

I think that highly structured/formalized Aikido is less supple: more like a thick tree than grass, that can bend before breaking!

I can be rough. Yes, still Aikido talk! In normal life, probably I am. On the mats, during normal practice, I try to avoid doing anything rough or uncomfortable for uke. Still feelings can be difficult. Of course I want that my partner never feels my technique as being rough. But this is not easy to achieve. What it is an early sharp entrance to anticipate uke‘s attack can be seen from uke side as a violent, aggressive form.

I also know that trying to copy forms quite new to me, as in this dojo, my technique could come out rough: not understanding what it is behind the form I know that if I try only to copy I end up using force.. when I do not want to get to my softer Aikido! I have also experienced the complete opposite though: watering down their forms, since unsure how to properly do and wanting to avoid the sharp corners that make me think as rough execution, I have experienced being blocked (or at least clumsy, awkward attempts to do so) by partners that they do not realize how many openings they give me just for to do so! Openings I force myself to not take advantage off since I would be misunderstood: accepting the block with a smile has become my mental training. And I experienced more than once during this year that being nice on the mats with people I know little has been interpreted as not being able, not having an acceptable Aikido for what they think my level should be..

I try more and more to take things with a smile: at least keep inside my annoyance and work it out later. My blog has been always a good place for me and my thoughts and I have spent too little time here lately. I still got so much to say.

In conclusion though, I need to practice, my mind, my body needs Aikido, and that smile mentioned just here is a better way for my needs! I can’t have my Aikido every day (let’s see if future moves will bring me closer to this), but I can have some doses of local Aikido balanced with weekend seminars.. and, soon, a week in Indonesia with Irie sensei!!

Oh yeah, let it come!! :-)

And I will just work more to avoid to be seen as rough!

Back to Stavanger!

26 08 2014

No, not moving back, just a long weekend for Aikido of course, and a walk to Prekestolen, long time no do!

All in all a great check to see my condition level: I am in pain for both elbow and knee, so I do not have big hopes to perform at high level on the mats or walk fast on the mountain slope, but it will be a check in preparation of October – Indonesian trip.

Anyway, my practice won’t notice in a seminar rich of very good level people from all over Europe: Marc Bachraty sensei visit to Jushinkan Stavanger dojo has become a fixed appointment in their calendar and several Aikidokas have made the trip more than once for the great practice and atmosphere in the dojo.

For me another great chance to meet old friends, both Aikido ones and not. Another chance to practice after a summer where my knees did not touch much tatami. Another chance to see if the physiotherapy of my elbow has been a little useful or not (I am thinking not lately, in fact I do not think there will be much physio after this seminar). Another chance to see again a little more of Stavanger after some time. And probably enjoy again :-)

I can say it is another chance also to get back writing on the blog: I did start a few posts dedicated to some of the many amazing teachers I met (all from only my personal point of view of course) and I definitively want to keep on writing, but the summer has flown away with so little practice and so many other things that very little came out here. Also right now I got myself in a very annoying situation related to money, bank and internet.. that I hope to manage to get out without too large losses.. and this does not help..

Anyway, even if the summer is over, winter is coming, for me it is going to be more or less the first summer Aikido practice that I hope will lead me into a good beginning of the autumn, both Aikido wise and mentally.. with the hope to manage to preserve my physical condition until Irie sensei seminar in Indonesia. And then for the week after the seminar, for some travel/vacation in Bali with 2 good friends!

First though a quite long flight via Frankfurt, arrival late night and then get to the dojo, for the first and only night alone, when I will not need the ear plugs! From tomorrow it will be most probably a… completely different music!


Aikido in Kyoto with Okamoto sensei!

17 07 2014

A very nice video documentary about Aikido in Kyoto with Yoko Okamoto sensei by Guillaume Erard:

Check Guillaume’s page anyway for so many more amazing videos!

And if you happen to be in Kyoto and want to visit sensei, check the dojo homepage!

Excess of flexibility

14 07 2014

Last week I went to a local physiotherapist suggested by the Aikido instructor to have my elbow checked: it is now more than 2 months that I suffer from what I thought it was a sort of “tennis elbow” applied to Aikido. A constant pain to the elbow area that intensifies every time I try to grab or lift about anything with my right hand (thank god that for most activities I am left handed!) ;-)

Unfortunately I had tried my Chinese left overs remedies and since the pain was more during the working hours than the practice time I had hoped to be able to cope with it and eventually wake up a day and find the elbow again at its 100%.. but it did not happen!

The pain had started the 3rd of May during the session I attended of Tissier sensei seminar in Amsterdam: after a quite tiring shomenuchi nikyo ura with a very advanced partner who was recovering form the jet lag of returning from Japan the day before (so his technique was oscillating between quite heavy locks and very soft, his usual, and effective control), I felt a sudden pain in the right arm, propagating from the elbow. It was about 5 minutes before the end of the session, so for the last technique I chose a beginner for partner and tried to slow down and do not force on the elbow/arm.

From that day, the pain has been almost constant/increasing, especially when I had to grab anything at work (the device I service as technician weigh less than 5 kg each, but already grabbing the battery packs was giving me jolts of pain). Saying I did manage to control the pain, changing a bit the way I perform the job (using more the left side) and using the above mentioned remedies, together with Voltaren and Ibuprofen, I however realized it was not enough for getting rid of the problem.

My year highlight will be the trip to Indonesia in October where the first week is fully dedicated to Irie sensei, therefore too important for getting there already injured!

Therefore I finally went to the physiotherapist that with my surprise said it is not a “tennis elbow” pathology but an inflammation due to too much flexibility of the arm! The muscle did not protect properly the elbow from everyday stress/work, so that it started suffering. The therapist was actually surprised how flexible my wrists/elbows/shoulder are, respect to.. normal people! And I do not think myself as very flexible in the body, when compared to my Aikido models!!

Clearly I must get more balance, in the muscle structure as in other things. I must probably take some decisions about the place where I want to live in the near future in order to get more of the Aikido I need, for my mental balance as well, given I do not want to change job/country anytime soon!

So from today I will work on the muscle around the elbow and soon they will evaluate if the problem improves. As said, my “deadline” is beginning of October, but a seriously good test will be Marc Bachraty sensei seminar in Stavanger at the end of August. And still planning some September activities.

Aikido vs. football

3 07 2014

I know several Aikido people will/would laugh at this post, laugh at me and think I am stupid probably.. or whatever, but it is not that I really care what people think of me, otherwise I would not have a blog ;-)

Among the majority of my Aikido close friends I cannot identify many that enjoy also team sports, either watching or practicing. In particular basketball, football (soccer!), rugby or, more on the side, volleyball (since I know a very good friend, Jacqueline Aikimama was a top volleyball player, but it is not really a team sport of contact, except the occasional smash on the face!).

I do not want to generalize to the whole Aikido world of course, but from my personal experience among the people I have met, usually Aikido people do not like team sports for one (or both) of the following reasons:

  1. They do not like/understand the spirit of competition, they often classify it as the “evil feeling” that you do not want to have when you practice Aikido, therefore wrong in any other appearance.
  2. They have always been, as children at school, awkward when doing team sports. Never been able to kick a ball straight or shoot at the basket, and since anyway there were several other classmates enjoying that much more, they ended up on the side of the field (or bench) watching other people doing something they never really understood where the enjoyment was.

Just thinking among the closest group of my Aikido friends, active Aikido friends I mean, I can find a few that are extremely good at solitary sports (skiing, snow boarding, skating, skate boarding, tennis, etc.) but.. nobody (except the above mentioned Jacq and my good friend Peter in HK, a very good basketball player with whom I had fun, if only once) with a past in team sports (beside when they were obliged at school).

I started playing basketball when I was 8 years old (1981) and I continuously played in teams until I started Aikido, in 1995, and overlapping that for 1-2 years (the terrible AVHI basket team in Trondheim!). After I quit basketball for a few reasons (the level was so low that I started getting worried to destroy my knees, ankles, joints) I did experienced a few times dreaming about playing again! No, not wet dreams.. but almost!

Even if I never played officially in a team, I also played a lot of volleyball during the years, and more than occasionally football, as goalkeeper: maybe because I always enjoyed falling and throwing myself on the ground I became so dedicated in learning a good ukemi:-)

Thanks to this team sport past I have met several people that have then become close and best friends.

Also I do not regret or try to forget the competitive feelings and spirit typical in basketball competitions: the maturity is keeping those feelings in the appropriate field. I admit in my youth I failed in doing so, from time to time. But I have never had problems in Aikido: I have never risked to mix the spirit for competition with my martial art practice. Maturity? Common sense? Cannot really say, but for sure, for me, Aikido and team sports can live together!

Furthermore, for how much I enjoy to watch Aikido videos, I like much more to watch live sports on TV! Since my youth, I have always enjoyed almost any sport on television (except golf, sorry..). But then the commercial TV started buying rights for sports event and less and less team sports were available on the free TV channels. So for a long time no live events, or streaming on laptops with not always stable connections.

Now it’s world cup time, and I am really enjoying watching football again (even if Italy was rightly humiliated and sent home). I do not find it boring, and since I am also living in a city where there is no dojo or teacher close to the Aikido I love the most to practice, I have had not many mental troubles to skip practice in order to watch football. This will be met by harsh words, comments and laughs by the Aikido friends!

Of course I would have never planned a trip to Japan or Stockholm during a major sport event like this one, but I have not avoided seminars because of football, if some of you are wondering. Endo sensei, still among my 2-3 favorite teachers, will be in Slovakia this week but I could not go there because of lack of holidays.. not because of football on TV!!

Do not worry, I am still one of the first and biggest Aikido freaks! It is just I live again in a non-perfect (for me) Aikido place.. but among the people with a regular job and not the typical Scandinavian flexi-time freedom I am still one of the most trip active!!

No regrets as well ;-)

One more week of football then I can focus on… something else! Hopefully in enjoying the summer ;-)

..and then Stavanger trip for Marc Bachraty sensei!!!

Amazing Yasuno sensei!

30 06 2014

For your start of the week I want to post the video Nagai sensei posted on Facebook, from the classes Yasuno sensei held in Kyoto in 2011, when I had also attended his seminar (as I did in 2013 and I will most probably do next year!):

Great inspiration for a Monday!

Happy start of the week you all!

REMINDER: Yasuno sensei will be in Pavia, Italy, the 4th-5th October, seminar organized by Urakasumi dojo.



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