Practice in Hangzhou

16 07 2011

Another nice weekend in Hangzhou (16-17 July), combining tons of practice (about 7.5 hours spread on 2 days), liters and liters of sweat (oh god, it was torrid weather!! and the mats were so hot!!), very good time and great food as usual with the people there!

On Saturday we started practice at 4pm, with a double session: first session with my good friend Ulrich, 1.dan from Xijiao Shanghai Aikido dojo, and then I took the last part of the day, with a shorter closing session. I did continue what I had started my last time there: yokomenuchi ikkyo omote, emphasizing how to use uke‘s intentions for a more fluid technique, as long as tori moves properly the body. For increase a little the challenge, I introduced yokomenuchi sankyo omote, working especially on the sankyo hand grip, being also of course alert to uke‘s intention in standing up during the critical phase of getting the proper grip.

Working shortly on the sankyo omote version where tori sets uke in the circular motion, I let them try to perform the quite funny uchi kaiten entrance below uke‘s arm and change in some other technique lowering uke‘s hand from sankyo grip: the usual easiest application is shihonage omote.

Keeping in mind the intention in yokomenuchi attack, I moved to katadori: after learning the realistic grip as Endo sensei does for active uke, with the intention to pull tori, we worked on tori‘s feeling to get in motion, relaxed and then doing a throw using only this upper body relaxation.

My last point of working a bit on intention of katadori attack but tori anticipating the grip and controlling uke‘s hand ended up very close to the end of the session. So I just let them try to have this anticipation feeling (checking from time to time that the partner was attacking for real, letting uke grabbing the jacket) and doing basic throws, using uke‘s intention and contact.

Aikido in Hangzhou

For the Sunday class, given that the weather was warmer and more humid than the day before, I split the session in 3 shorter ones, with “plenty” of time to drink in between and relax.

1st hour: ukemi and falling basics, with then some basic applications for backward fall especially. Then I proposed a softer version or iriminage emphasizing the control of uke‘s head on tori‘s shoulder and the important “work” the hand controlling, softly, the head is doing. For me, together with the way the shoulder moves, it is always the most important part of iriminage technique. Actually also what makes of iriminage something enjoyable to practice, and not only an “arm cutting the neck” unpleasant technique (yeah, I know, on the street it is for sure effective, but you don’t want to practice all like that, otherwise the number of your training partners decrease very fast 😉 ). I also mentioned the equally effective “good morning” version 🙂 (youtube necessary!).

2nd hour: After really long time, since there were a few new people for me on the mats, I introduced again Endo sensei contact exercises. Also it is one of the easiest way to show what I love of Endo sensei Aikido vision of uke‘s role. And furthermore, it is a great way for me to work hard as uke, without the necessity to perform ukemi. Emphasizing the pushing on the contact that makes all these exercises demanding and at the same time interesting, I practiced with all the people on the mats both as tori and uke. And with the advanced students I also show how easy it is to pass from one role to the other, just “staying with” your partner (contact-wise) and feeling the situation.

3rd hour: going a little deeper in the way uke should move, move like a baby as Endo sensei says sometimes, forget all framed karate style movements, sukiashi, okuriashi or similar training forms. Aikido is much better when uke knows he/she is free to move, taking care to not put him-/herself in a weak position. Application in kokyu ho (Jorma’s form where uke moves not tori) and katatedori tenchinage, with the same idea. When uke makes proper the feeling of contact and the equally important feeling of freedom in movements, suddenly the technique becomes much more enjoyable and at the same time demanding. The timing, the exact moment tori can perform a force-less throw is short but evident, clear, and when tori finds that right moment and performs the throw, uke‘s face always shows full surprise (and, remembering some good “Norwegian” friends) also pleasure already enjoying the ukemi part of the technique!!

Aikido in Hangzhou

I don’t need to say that I could have worked all the day on the topic of 1 hour.. probably working happily all the weekend.. but I also need to “touch” different topics, maybe leaving the guys in Hangzhou a little confused (and I personally think it is good!). Still I have to keep training not only my body, but also my mind and my skills as instructor, hoping in a close future to be able again to practice several times per week.. and maybe then use the weekends for really exploring China, even places with no Aikido dojos!! 🙂


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