Just back from an extremely good and interesting seminar with Takahama Mitsunobu sensei, 7.dan, in Bolzano organized by Aikido Club Bolzano.
Many first times for me: first time going to Bolzano, that I discovered to be an extremely beautiful mountain city, with a gorgeous old part, extremely well kept , surrounded by the Dolomite; first time practicing with Takahama sensei; first time meeting some more active Italian aikidokas following Yasuno sensei style of Aikido; first time practicing in Italy with a good Italian friend I met in in Japan, Ennio, back in Italy after about 10 years in Japan, and ready to start his Italian Aikido adventure with his new dojo/project Ura Kasumi in Lodi, Pavia and Milan.
The practice has been amazing: after meeting Irie sensei in China these past years I have developed a deeper and stronger interest in that Aikido style, developed by Yasuno sensei:
Takahama sensei is a very close student of Yasuno sensei, and apparently I had actually met him already twice in Kyoto at the summer seminars organized by Kyoto Aikido. Seminars with a lot of very good Aikido people, at least a great excuse I can use for not having recognized Takahama sensei 🙂
A very good thing of this seminar has been learning more in English about the principle of Yasuno sensei Aikido: at the last seminar in Kyoto, Yasuno sensei talked indeed a lot about this, but it was all in Japanese, not translated since most if not all foreigners that live in Japan can speak Japanese!
Takahama sensei said at the very beginning of the seminar that we were not going to just learn and work on techniques, kata, structured forms, but try to understand more of the principles behind the technique itself. He explained that the main point of practice with Yasuno sensei were (please, don’t be upset with me if I have misunderstood something.. as usual I do my best!):
- Feel: every partner is different, so during practice don’t just perform the technique in mechanical way, it would probably not work on different people! The feeling is the most important part, at the very moment the connection with the partner is established.
- Find: from the feeling, you must find out the reason behind it, the connection to the body.
- Flash: as an idea will flash in your mind, and it is the idea that will lead you to perform properly the movement.
- Do: or execute the movement, that will not only be a concept anymore.
As said, I might very possibly have misunderstood something (all? don’t think so!) but this “process” chain does make sense! I am pretty sure it is the way we all have been working but at my level I do really need someone so much more experienced to put in words my abstract thoughts! Abstract and pretty messy most of the time!
We worked a lot on tenkan movements, emphasizing the “heavy” contact phases and the more relaxed ones, when and how to pass from one to the other, using the body and not only arms, as I do!! Many times I have been corrected about this: less arms, more body! And the body is really the key in (this) Aikido, even if untrained eyes might well misunderstand a Yasuno sensei exhibition.
Takahama sensei emphasized also the importance of the body stance both when lowering the center for controlling uke and when standing up for a throw. Straight upper body and strong center, with flexible legs and free hips in order to transfer the energy from the center to the partner, key aspects of Aikido, not only Yasuno sensei Aikido I would say! But often the attention gets over them because of the structure of the technique: Takahama sensei lead us to work more focused on these aspects not thinking too much to a technique frame.
I leave you with a video partly translated from Tanabe 2008 from Yasuno sensei session, with a bit more words about his Aikido view.
Do you find some people you know in the video? 🙂 …and part 2:
FUNNY THING OF THE DAY – What do Aikido and zumba have in common? Palasport in Bolzano on Sunday practice!!! Yeah.. we got a major screw up of the Palasport administration, setting for the same day a zumba/salsa marathon and, in a room side by side with the main hall, separated by a few centimeters of this wood wall, our Aikido seminar!!