Aikido in Kyoto

16 06 2011

The trip was hard, maybe I am not anymore a young backpackers but I am still able to recover quite fast, even with a night train, tough trip and overtime at work! And given the kind of Aikido I had in Kyoto it was totally worth it!!

The location was also amazing: Kyoto Budo center is the dream for any Japanese martial art practitioner, giving motivation and good feelings just for being there. An ancient time dream!

Budo and blue sky

Walking around the different buildings, watching people practicing kyudo or iaido or aikido, arriving already in keiko-gi and hakama carrying their gear was such a relaxing feeling. That was really the right place for budo!

4 days, 2 official sensei and one extra session with a new instructor for me. A really good Aikido holiday of the kind I miss since I left Europe!

Here following some description of the sessions and some personal thoughts. They might be wrong to some other practitioners, but as Endo sensei explained in several of his seminars, everybody sees in a different way what it’s in front of their eyes, taking up some details important for oneself, and disregarding others important maybe for other people (the “drawing the ant” story!!). So don’t hate for what I did not understand properly! Again, my blog is, at the end, the digital format of my own Aikido notes! 😉

Christian Tissier shihan – 7.dan Aikikai
Never tired of him, always missing, and this time it was really a long time since last practice with sensei. He said at once he was in pain: I think it is always his problems with arthritis, with knees and somebody mentioned a kidney stone. One could actually see he was in pain: his movements were not as fluid and flowing as usual. But when the action started, it was full Tissier-action!

Sensei focused his sessions on the step-by-step construction of a technique: when it is possible to pause the execution and still being able to finish the technique, as long as the other important elements as maai, taisabaki, mind, intention were not compromised in the pause. Given that also uke could contrast, block or change the situation in these same pauses, for tori it’s important to be mentally ahead in the technique execution, knowing what to do before getting there, once the technique has started.

He also showed how body and hips movement are important, emphasizing it in situations where uke reacts properly to tori‘s movements, creating more challenging situations. Several times he said, to uke, that they should not be afraid during the attack: in real life if one is afraid, he/she would never attack another person. Therefore in practice, when attacking, uke must be focused on the attack, not thinking to change the body position in order to protect himself too early, before tori has even started the technique. This is particularly evident in shomenuchi ikkyo, when several people have the tendency to bend the shomenuchi arm as soon a sit comes in contact to tori‘s arm, even if there is no reason linked to tori‘s action for doing so!

The large amount of people on the mats made almost impossible to work a lot on throwing techniques. Sensei then showed very interesting movements from ushiro ryote dori attack. From personal experience, too many people are really confused about the movement itself, as tori (experience in Europe, China and Japan!!). The movement of pivot around the leg of the same side of the first hand grabbed lets tori decide the direction he/she wants to face when the second hand is grabbed as well (giving time to uke to grab, to avoid a much worse attack if tori moves away the second hand too fast!). Again the focus is on body/hips movement, not swinging arms. And keeping some of this rotation, technique application becomes also more natural, being uke in movement as well, therefore easier to take uke‘s balance (and bring uke‘s center in front of tori).

Apparently I am not the only one throwing in some personal thoughts about practice 🙂 Good to see we did not write things too differently!! (Amazing we also posted a very similar picture, took on Saturday afternoon, when the sun came out!)

Masatoshi Yasuno shihan – 7.dan Aikikai
One of my “new entry” from Japan 2008 experience, it is probably one of the teachers I’d love to meet more and more often. And before I can even start mentioning something about his Aikido, I would really need some seminars with.. translations! In Kyoto he asked for translations once, and once more I got it from one of the Japanese right after the session.. When he actually asked, at the very beginning of his class, he said the core hints for his techniques (and so difficult to achieve):

keep focus in the center
relax the upper body
free the lower body, free leg movement

It seems easy, and when one looks at him moving he seems also utterly natural. Like for Endo sensei, seeing and then trying are completely different aspects.

The part I got translated is about not planning a technique (very similar also to what Endo sensei often shows): the way that uke reacts will lead tori to perform something.. without planning in advance how to control your partner and then smash against a wall if he/she does not behave as you planned. This is something I also try to emphasize when showing randori or multiple attacker situations (futarigake or sanningake for graduation purposes). Of course the only way to perform properly in these situation is keeping a peaceful mind, or as Endo sensei refers to, a quite mind, or chinkon, 鎮魂, ちんこん, “spirit pacification” (yeah, with Endo sensei it is more common to get some sort of translation!!).

For the rest, as a friend pointed out, it was a one man show: Yasuno sensei likes the stage and he knows how to walk the stage! He started his first session taking his favorite ukes and throwing them around with all the possible attacks, showing a quite complete repertoire of techniques and applications.

For not the first time I thought I really would like to understand better how he can manage that with such a natural attitude!!

Didier Boyet shihan – 6.dan Aikikai
First time practicing with Boyet sensei. He began studying Aikido and Iaido (6.dan – Muso Shinden Ryu, the same style I have also practiced! But we did not manage to talk about that) in 1972. He currently resides in Tokyo, and is invited all over the world to give seminars on Aikido and Iaido. He belongs to Birankai association, under the guide of Chiba shihan. Before I practiced with him some guy from Hombu dojo said his Aikido is probably a valid bridge between Yamaguchi shihan and Chiba shihan! I have never practiced with either of them, but heard and seen a lot on youtube, and I respect both of them, so I was quite interested ofn his class.

His Aikido seemed to me essential and effective. He worked on slightly variations of kihon. Solid position for tori and determined attack from uke were common elements sensei emphasized several times during practice.

A very interesting shomenuchi sankyo: after meeting the attack and getting in ikkyo entrance, in order to be able to change the hand grip to sankyo grip, sensei performed a very strong step in the uke‘s shoulder direction, a mix of atemi and kuzushi, for unbalancing uke. This is in fact one of the point that beginners think is weird: how to change effectively the grip without having a reaction from uke. I remember a similar execution, and I think it was by Yasuno sensei in Wasquehal, where he was really unbalancing uke toward the mats in order to fully control for the grip change.

I would certainly like to practice with Boyet sensei again if possible!



One response

22 06 2011

Thanks for writing about the seminar. I enjoyed reading it. 😉


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