Irie sensei in Shanghai and Beijing

2 07 2011

2 seminars only a few weeks apart with a teacher that gave me one of the most enjoyable Aikido mats experiences ever:  Yoshinobu Irie shihan, 6th dan from hombu dojo in Tokyo. The first time was in Shanghai, right after a few days working in Suzhou, and then, just 3 days before travelling to Kyoto for the big seminar of this year, I went also to Beijing for Irie sensei.

At once when I saw him moving I noticed several elements from Yasuno sensei Aikido style.

Irie sensei said infact he considers his main teachers both Endo sensei and Yasuno sensei: what else could I dream for a good seminar in China! OK, 2 great seminars in China!!

Last year, I had the chance to practice with Horii sensei at Hangzhou Aikido and get closer to the people there, of that very nice dojo, and this year I had already an enjoyable seminar in Shanghai with Nakao sensei. With my bad condition and little practice any seminar is perfect (it was already my idea before, when I used to practice 6-7 times per week.. now it is the same idea times 1 bilion!). But having a chance to practice with someone doing the kind of Aikido I came to love in the last years is completely different.. it’s.. huge! 🙂

Irie sensei paid a lot of attention in the way that uke moves: that was extremely interesting, since when one goes to for example Yasuno sensei seminars, sensei expects that the people already know how to move, so they do not spend much time working the basics. Irie sensei on the other hand showed himself as uke the proper way to receive the technique, working from a basic as shomenuchi ikkyo omote. Always keeping the center toward tori and trying to balance on the external leg, the work for uke is demanding but enriching in the feelings to be there, be present during the whole technique. And the best, and wisest way, for uke to move in these situation was by removing the leg closest to tori, lifting and certainly do not leave the leg in a dangerous position, where tori could so easily trip or attack that leg. But not many instruct pay attention to explain or emphasize this important detail, leaving to the attention of the people to notice this from practice.. and trust me, it is never easy to catch all the details during sensei technique execution!!

Furthermore, Irie sensei clearly pointed out the forward feeling, mae or omote movement that uke should do during shomenuchi iriminage under the “control” of tori: I got the same feeling from Endo sensei techniques, iriminage or kotegaeshi for example. Actually it is the challenge of tori to keep ukemoving forward even knowing that the technique closes with an ushiro throw.. Yeah, easier to do than write it down.. I know!! 😉

Closing of throwing techniques and direction in control of uke made, from my very limited point of view, Irie sensei closer to Yasuno sensei Aikido.

And I was lucky enough to experience it in first person! A lot actually.. more than I ever experienced before! Already in Shanghai, when it was the first time I met Irie sensei, I was so lucky he walked always around the mats throwing people left and right. And in Beijing he clearly remembered people “from” Shanghai seminar (Ulrich and an young energetic Chinese shodan where there besides me!).. so I got a full experience being used as uke during several techniques. He also used to show the techniques on different people.

That was so cool!! And I got a much deeper understanding of things that were mainly said in Japanese and translated in Chinese!! 🙂

As a matter of fact, lately I came to dislike Endo sensei seminars mainly (but not only) for the completely absence of being thrown by sensei: in his kind of Aikido, after having attended many seminars as I have been lucky to do so (investing of course quite a lot of money and time), what one can understand from only watching sensei is not even close to what one feels when sensei throws him. Maybe he thinks I have not the level to be thrown, but I objectively do not think so anymore, especially after training so many times at his seminars, therefore with so many of the people he likes to use. I know he likes young people and I am old and fat, still when a much younger sensei as Irie sensei apparently has still a lot of fun throwing me around (choosing among maybe more than 80 other people on the mats, in Shanghai, first time we met) I feel good and I feel I have learnt so much more than the last.. (all) many times with Endo sensei!

Still, that does not mean I am not going to Endo sensei seminar in Shanghai. I’ll be there, always in the front row (I practice without glasses, therefore I have to be in the front row!!), always looking amazed to all his moves, always trying to understand a little more from what he does or what he say and always paying him the right amount of respect for a person that reach that level in Aikido. Always knowing though what is my level, as Aikido practitioner and as a person.

FUNNY THING OF THE DAY – This is an extremely funny thing I observed at several seminars now here in China: when sensei during a technique goes around and start throwing people it is common tradition (everywhere) that the people close by stop and make a circle around sensei, both for observing the technique and leaving enough space for sensei. But the people farther away from this zone of mats they just keep on practicing, knowing usually sensei will walk there as well. In China, on the other hand, when sensei stops someone and start showing the technique of just throw people around, all the people on the mats stop practice and get close or just sit down to watch!! And I mean, ALL, even far far far away!! So the practice is actually interrupted very often, and I do not like it very much. Also I remember once Irie sensei start practicing with a girl and when he noticed everybody was start sitting down he said at once to keep on practicing, and that was his own practice!! 😀

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