2 weekends ago in Hangzhou I had a taste of Chinese summer humidity and its effect on Aikido practice. A sort of first step for a planned Aikido weekend trips that took me to Wuhan the weekend 07/16-17. Wuhan, 武汉, capital of Hubei province, Hankou, 汉口, district, is known for its oppressively humid summers. Wuhan is commonly known as one of the Three Furnaces of China, along with Nanjing and Chongqing..
Actually it seems that Hangzhou according to meteorologist is more terrible than Wuhan! But then scientific statistics always leave way to popular point of view.. And all my friends said that Wuhan is warmer!!
The weekend in Hangzhou left me not too bad at a purely muscular/body feeling level, but I think that because of the still painful combination of humidity, heat and AC I got a quite boring cold. Last week I was a little smashed, lost in my mind, with dry cough, throat ache and little headache.
I still had some cough and throat ache, but I did not suffer too much the cold effects during the weekend in Wuhan. And the clement weather there contributed to the wonderful time I had off the mats! And also to let me survive a quite demanding Aikido practice weekend!!
Wuhan Aikido dojo main teacher, 胡教练、Mr. Hu Jiaolian, 2.dan, practices a direct and effective type of Aikido. Short movements, lots of joint locks, fast action and reaction to uke intentions. I have been lucky enough to practice also with him, and I can say his technique is powerful without being stiff or barely muscle based. It reminds me some Aikido forms closer to jujitsu or aiki-jutsu. Uke‘s main challenge is be ready for any possible lock at any possible joint, from wrists to head locks, as the teacher showed for some forms of tanto dori.
I enjoyed practicing his variations, especially some interesting locks from katadori, keeping always at the same time awareness to the role of uke very important for me.
Very useful to practice with the higher graded people in Wuhan. Most of them have a quite good ukemi, acceptable contact as well, even if in their Aikido they do not focus much on this part. But they were quite interested also to know about the way I usually practice (or better, I should say “I used to practice”).
||I must remind that the contact between 杨冰, Mr. Yang Bin, and me happened in Beijing, during Irie sensei seminar, when I was so lucky that sensei remembered practicing with the people that was in Shanghai just a couple of weeks earlier. So during that seminar I got the equivalent of maybe 2o years of Endo sensei European seminars in terms of ukemi from sensei and feelings straight from the source!!! And Yang Bin told me that Wuhan people appreciated my ukemi and my work as uke.So on Sunday they asked me to actually teach one session in Wuhan, starting some time before the official time with some soft ukemi exercises. I proposed most of the training forms introduced by Frank Ostoff and Jan Nevelius during the seminars I was lucky to attend! Always doing my best, emphasizing especially the common mistakes, I mention also my sources: nothing of what I show (or very little) comes from me! Most is form my notes after practicing with these wonderful teachers!
After having introduced the easy and useful exercises in order to improve ukemi in a softer way, it was time for the real class. Probably one of the largest, if not the largest class I have taught in China. And with the least people that could understand or speak English! But not necessary talking too much for what I showed. I used my common warming up involving the coordination sequence when jumping, learned in Oslo from Thy-Thy, Erik’s wife, and that has become a constant of my practice. That together with the “washing the floor” movement or more Karate kid like “wax on, wax off” from an almost squat position, perfect exercise for working the leg’s muscle, so important in Endo sensei and Yasuno sensei kind of Aikido. Exercise that I always do and still hate!!
谢琳芷 & 杨冰
Then I just worked on some basic movements like kokyo ho and tenchinage trying to emphasize the use of hips-body and keeping the contact and the arms close to tori‘s body, elbows down, relaxing from the shoulders and minimizing the use of muscles or throw by arm work rather than taking the partner center.
As a closing, trying to transmit a bit more of the relaxed feeling I try to achieve in my body when I practice, I did one exercise that Endo sensei shows from time to time: 1 or 2 uke take by katatedori gyaku hanmi grip tori‘s wrists, holding a solid grip and the only thing that tori should do is relaxing completely the arms and move the partners but turning the upper body from side to side keeping the arm relaxed.. using the arms like connection ropes between tori and uke, but letting the body and hips movement doing the work. For me it is also a great exercise for “teaching” uke to walk.. like a baby and not try to keep a position even if there are no more reason for that..
I think the people there understood most of my intentions but it was quite difficult to do it, even if I tried to go around the mats and practice with everybody. A quite different Aikido might have left the black belts a little confused, or at least that is what I hope: once gets confused when tries to do something new and think about that..
I tried to make them enjoying trying! Hope to have more chances!
One very special aspect of Wuhan dojo is the children taking part also to the normal class, even if after the warming up one of the black belts take care of them. But since I met already a few of them on Beijing and especialyl one tiny girl in hakama is so sweet, I went to practice a little with them:
In conclusion, a really pleasant discovery of a new (for me) Aikido reality in China and hopes to meet again these wonderful people and to establish with them a friendship can go beyond the mats..