A few weekends ago I went to Rome for my first experience with Endo sensei in Italy, at Aikido Dojo Kashin Roma. It was then also probably the first time I really understood what sensei was talking about, since his words were translated to Italian!! After listening to Japanese, Finnish, Slovakian, Czech, French and German translations, I can say I was happy for once to struggle less!! (Yeah, I know, I still have missed the Spanish, Bulgarian and Russian seminars of Endo sensei!!)
In a way it was also a good test for me to see if the stuff I had managed to stitch together, guess or get by translation earlier was more or less what sensei talks about, and not inventions and my misunderstanding! I realized the difficulty for any good translators to work with Aikido words (or in general probably anything from an Asian philosophy to a Western language). The translator at this seminar was a skilled Japanese woman who had even an accent typical of people from Rome! But when she had to translate fast from sensei words in order to keep up with him, the Italian was resulting a little messy.. as I heard before from other translators in other countries where Endo sensei goes. A pity that he does not use more English since i am quite convinced that, nowadays, he could express very well all the concept by himself.
Said this, I think unfortunately when there is a translator there is also a little too much talking, translating in too much sitting in seiza and much less working on Aikido: there is never a translator in Sweden, and therefore there is always much more good Aikido practice!
On the other hand I really enjoyed the environment in this seminar in Rome: maybe because it was so many years since my last visit of this beautiful city, maybe because of the weather for most part of the weekend, maybe because the great company of old and new friends, Aikido ones and not only, maybe because some of the words used by sensei reached my heart as well, maybe because after those words I had some chances for nice practice, maybe because of the delicious food.. lots of maybe, one certainty: this is a seminar I hope I can take part again!
During the seminar, sensei worked as usual on the Aikido principles that make his Aikido interesting even to people visiting for the first time. As usual sensei tried to have us working not on the structured kata, on the form (on the pure technique as you do during graduation), but have a wider view of what happens around you, how uke moves and why and how tori should move and why.
The “Why?“, the questioning of every action, every step, every movement should be part of every day Aikido practice, and I think, not only Aikido! And together with the why, the “How?” cannot be forgotten: it is not really a sequential process, first -why- ten -how-, but the two aspects are intrinsically correlated: the “soft way” of performing Aikido as for Endo sensei is the answer to these questions.
Establish connection – feel uke – destabilize uke by redirecting his/her energy, these few feelings are in his Aikido, with the probably difficult point, especially for advanced students, of not thinking about the throw or the technique when it comes to the moment to do something with uke‘s center, energy. “Don’t fight/struggle with uke” are common words repeated by sensei to remind us that the flexibility of the body is much more effective when there is also flexibility in the mind, when you do not fix on one thing, as for example moving a partner that has reached a stable position.. instead of just redirect your partner’s balance.
It was quite interesting when sensei talked about the meaning of the tile of his book, “Vibration and Connection“, where, as he says also in the book:
“[..] In my 50s, stemming firmly from the soft keiko, my capacity to concentrate my feeling became heightened and the ways in which I was able to use the body broadened. I felt the occurrence of my partners’ attacks as vibration, and I sought technique by which I could absorb their movement.”
Endo Seishiro, Vibration and Connection
After all this good Aikido I was happy to meet a local friend, Federico, that I actually knew from Hefei, China!! He spent the night of Sunday with Jacqueline and me and took us to have a delicious dinner in Trastevere in a very familiar little restaurant and then he took us to see the Colosseum by night. A wonderful time with a friend that I hope to meet again and he was so kind with us showing us something usually difficult when you are an Aikido “tourist”, when often you don’t have time for much else than practice and travel!