Really inspiring weekend in Stockholm where I met for the first time Yamashima sensei, 7.dan Aikikai: I had heard a lot about the practice with him, recommended by different teachers and aikidokas here and there. And my first impression has been extremely good, looking forward for a chance to practice with him again probably in the Netherlands later this year.
Of course for me being in Stockholm is always special, always bring extra good feelings, it can be for Aikido or not.
Of course it is even more special when you have the chance to practice with people like Jorma Lyly, Vanadis Aikido dojo, and Peter Spangfort, Järfälla Aikidoklubb, both amazing 6.dan Aikikai, with so much to give to any partner always in an accessible and special way. And I cannot even start naming all the other wonderful people on the mats, some of them practicing Aikido for more than 50 years (one session was at Stockholm Aikikai, club founded in 1964!!).
Of course I always enjoy discovering “new” teachers (for me), after having heard much about and then having a chance to “feel first hand” (never better expression used in Aikido!).
Yamashima sensei emphasized a lot the use of one’s own center, in contrast to the pushing/pulling typical of muscle strength, and quite useless when facing a stronger and/or much larger opponent (as in the video below, sensei and Peter). When grabbing Yamashima sensei I really liked the clean “communication” channel he managed to establish at once with uke. And then the sharpness of the information transmitted through that channel:
Then it becomes uke “problem” to understand the intentions through the contact, but isn’t it common in good Aikido practice? When contact is not just a word, and terms like awase (physical connection), kimusubi (blending of the kis between partners) and then kuzushi acquire a meaning beyond the simple literal translation in English (as I did here).
In truth a problem of this kind of practice lies in uke self ego/expectations/blockage (intentional or not as it can be an internal, physical “road block” on the way between the contact point and uke‘s own center – I got one clear blockage behind my right shoulder). If there is no feeling of the contact or no interest in that, this kind of practice is less enjoyable I think. Of course, even with static, stiff, “insensitive” uke, sensei was able to take their center, especially by lowering the contact and searching for the unbalancing point. And of course keeping his own center! Strong and defined, always! The technique (or application) works of course, but the fluidity, the dynamic are lost.
Something similar can happen when practicing with Jorma Lyly sensei, but usually the blockage in the communication is the kind of problem that Jorma faces eager to find the solution, managing often to “fix” the partner, removing the road block to the flowing of ki, energy (letting the contact to reach the center and become fully effective). An interesting challenge, especially for fixing my own problems. Jorma is probably the best guidance I have found in the years for this kind of work. And having a chance to practice with him at Yamashima sensei seminar just an made the seminar even better.
But as usual, even with lots of Aikido it has not been an only-Aikido weekend, thanks to my aiki-brother Svein: good food, good beers, good company, good chats and walks, besides again the perfect practice, before, during and after the normal sessions.