Take my baby out for a spin…

31 05 2016

The sunny water (yeah, finally!), a ling working day, no Aikido practice and too many thoughts on my mind found a very good cure (even if I was far from dressed properly!):

Iaido in the sun

Mainly repetitions of basic cuts, shoatto from standing position and 8 cuts sequence..

Enough though to make me miss my Iaido obi and all my Iaido notes..

A good spin that helped my mind demons to settle a bit and reminded me of the joy of swinging my sword! Unfortunately left me with a boring pain in my left arm/elbow/hand (signs of my old arthritis coming back maybe or some very wrong movement).

…what you do not see in the picture is that I was in shorts, sandals and listening to heavy metal with earphones!! Not a proper uniform.. 😛

My baby is home

22 05 2016

After 6 years and a couple of months I could hold again my baby, and it gave me goosebumps:

my dragonfly iaito

For some time we lost contact and even she seemed lost, but then my dear friend Bob found the case and other bits of my Iaido past:

scabbards and iaito kit

Holding her in my hands was fantastic and I can only dream the time I can “dance” with her again… It requires some good weather for going outside.. therefore, being in the Netherlands, lots of prayers!

But she is home, and that is important!

Iaido memories

4 06 2013

Among the thousands of unsorted emails that I left pile up I found 2 interesting links to the Musō Shinden-ryū (夢想神伝流) Iaido teacher I was so lucky to meet in Sweden and Estonia: Takada Gakudo sensei, Iaidô Hanshi 10th Dan, 20th Headmaster of Musô Shinden Ryû Lineage.

The link was provided by one of the main instructors in the Finnish group, that has also an informative webpage.

Recently I had a small chat about Iaido with the people I met in Hong Kong Aikido. I miss that practice as well, and then the memories of Takada sensei came back.. a really special experience meeting a real Iaido sensei, after several years of practice with a teacher that revealed himself to be just a big fraud in life, and in Iaido probably something anchored to some odd little school of several years ago..

I always consider the Iaido technique I learnt as useful in itself for both Iaido and Aikido and helped to develop myself (as the encounter with that teacher helped to develop my personality and certainly made me stronger). In the years following my first approach to Iaido I learnt that most of my technique was based on some very old school forms, not anymore used among the usual Muso Shinden Ryu practitioner. One thing common though when practicing koryu, 古流, Iaido forms is that there are so many families and deviations from the mainstream that it is normal to see lots of personalized and customized forms.

So I do not dismiss or dislike what I learned as useless: quite the opposite, it has been an important part of my formation.

As important it has then been meeting and practicing with Takada sensei and after him I was lucky to practice also with another European quite well known teacher, René Van Amersfoort sensei, 7.dan in both Iaido and Jodo, from Kiryoku dojo in Holland (and visiting often Norway, Bergen and Oslo the places where I practiced with him thanks to the local Kendo clubs).

As for Aikido, all different experiences you have with teachers that are not the only you usually follow might add something to your own vision, your technqieu, help you to understand and to practice better the way you choosed to do it!

Hope to take up again my iaito once back in Europe and check if my knees can stand some seiza on wood floor!

Iaido @ Vaulen

Bob holding tsuka and koiguchi, starting to draw..

A week of Aikido in Shenzhen

20 11 2012

Luxury week, the past one, when comparing to my first 2.5 years in China.

If considering only the Aikido related aspects, and not the iPhone troubles and slow steps in learning the job and finding my role here in Longgang, it has been a quite good week!!

3 sessions (!), almost back to “normal” times, uhm? This included also a 1 hour wepaon class on Sunday (preceeded by 1 hour Aikido).

This is probably the only “official” Aikikai Aikido club in Shenzhen and 2 friends from Shanghai recommended it to me. The teacher, Alan (4.dan), lives in Hong Kong and comes to Shenzhen for teaching these 3 sessions per week. His closest teacher was Ken Cottier, that I met quite a few times in England for the summer school with Kanetsuka sensei.. in ancient times!

The club is relatively small and at a relatively beginner level. But as found before in China, the people all have good motivations and good spirit. That is what I need anyway to get back my stamina and practice condition!

Aikido practice
I certainly joined the club, but at the same time I will not change my aikido in order to fully join their style. This is clear to me and soon I will also discuss it with the trainer. This does not mean I will do “my way”on the mats: I will do my best to perform the way the technique is explained, especially I will try to not confuse the beginners and certainly I will never show them, during practice, “my way” to do stuff (different from their teacher).

I hope the teacher will understand.

For my side, I will certainly find also something new and interesting to integrate or fit in the Aikido I like now.. besides being thrown around as much as possible.. again!

Practice and condition and basic training it is anyway what I need the most now, focusing maybe more to the teachers I am interested in and trying to get some of their seminars.

About the practice here, they got a quite fast warming up (good!) with several taisabaki and ushiro ukemi exercises from migi and hidari hanmi.

One funny difference: for the normal ushiro ukemi, without rolling, from standing, they turn the upper body for hitting the mats at once with the opposite hand respect to the side of the foot that is going backward, the opposite from what I am used, except when hitting with both hands in ushiro ukemi, but always first the one on the same side of the foot!

Also for every warming up they do a sort of “catch me if you can” game in shikko with the teacher calling the different names (everybody!) and this one “running” around trying to avoid to be touched. The first time, to slip past 2 people I took mae ukemi, and from their faces they were very surprised!

Practice then is a good mix of real basics and a little more advanced techniques, with the people level, except me, ranging from extremely beginners to maybe one 1.kyu and a few 2.kyu. On Sunday there are a few black belts, but they usually do not practice in weekdays because of work. Quite common over here.

Besides the condition work (trying to push for good ukemi and high intensity during the full practice keeping good awareness of my being uke and mind focused on the way the technique is performed), the technique in itself is of course different from my teachers’.

Here and there I noticed some old habits I keep trying to avoid in my practice, like the infamous Trondheim-time “un-bent arm“, that is not the more famous Ki-Aikido concept of unbendable arm: “our” was more a stiffness result!

In all throws, from kokyunage to iriminage, my “throwing arm” is never fully out-stretched but always (..trying at least) bent, as the result, as Philippe Orban sensei brilliantly put it long time ago, of the passage from the verticality of taking uke balance to the horizontality of the throw. Brilliant indeed! So the throw cannot happen, for me, with the out-stretched arm (in iriminage I think it would result in sort of “pushing” uke, as many schools do, but I have never liked).

Bokken practice

bokken practice

Sunday, after 1 hour Aikido, bokken got out!

We were 9 people, but one slightly injured, so 8 doing the suburi cutting warming up and the “big bokken brother” (BBB), 4kg of thick wood, came out. Starting from migi hanmi and normal stance in holding the sword (right hand to tsuba) we did a round of counting to 50 cuts, each of us, with the BBB passing from person to another every 50 cuts. Then, when all had counted and had fun with BBB, reverse stance and hands (yes, left hand to tsuba in hidari hanmi.. so awkward for me and my years of Iaido!!) and then again, 50 each passing BBB around.

A good warming up with 400+400 cuts, reminding again Iaido practice, thousand cuts in seiza. I remember what a fellow Iaido practitioner said: for him the thousand cut in seiza were.. boring! For me at that time it was a pain.. but I completely shared the thought at this practice! True the BBB was heavy, but I did manage to relax completely and did not feel any particular pain during suburi, neither for the large amount of cuts nor for the weight. So the repetition became boring. And I think it was actually a good result for my practice.

On the other hand, most of toher people were cutting very strnagely, using shoulders and turning the whole upper body (it was a normal straight “shomen” cut – properly called “kirioroshi/kiriotoshi”). The teacher seemed not interested in correcting the cut. I think then the exercise is more for the mind. Useful as well.

The rest of the practice for the last 30 minutes involved some easy bokken kata, not sure from which Aikiken form. It could have been anything. After some time they all look the same. A reason in Hangzhou I have sometimes made up kata, just mixing different cuts and different movements. Good for a few practice, never formalized!

The good thing is that today, 2 days past this tough practice, I do feel only a little my pectorals and a tiny stiffness in my upper body: another proof I did not forget too much from past Iaido and bokken sessions!

FUNNY THING OF THE DAY – I can get to the dojo for Aikido practice in the weekdays in about 1.5 hours (mixing subway and walknig time), for Sunday practice it is more on the 2 hours side. Part of mind training! One thing I feel funny here in Shenzhen: it seems I have become even more Chinese and forgot the difference between East and West! More than once I mixed the two directions and ended up losing much time…

Endo Shihan enbukai in Saku

17 05 2012

This is just a small but so relevant (for me) video from sensei demonstration at the 18th Saku International Aikidô Kenshûkai in Saku, Japan.

What I especially love in this video is a concept typical in Iaido but not so developed in Aikido: the concept of “seme“, 攻め, literally “attack, pressure”, that from my learning it is not a physical attack, but it is more metaphysical, psychological, expressed by the power transmitting from the eyes of the samurai, by the way, before drawing the sword, one looks at his opponent. Iaido is anyway “saya no uchi de katso“, the victory (the outcome) is in the scabbard, everything is decided before drawing the sword.

In Gorin no sho, “The Book of Five Rings” (五輪書 by Miyamoto Musashi), it is said: “The body merging with the katana, united, becoming one”. So it is not need a physical manifestation of the pressure you give to your opponent, to disrupt his sense of confidence and resolution, prior to an attack.

And this is exactly what sensei is doing toward the end of the video!

I can tell that the first time I saw Endo sensei freezing the strike of uke in midair just thanks to a sudden shift in his stare, I felt goosebumps! Not only timing, as sensei always says, but my mind jumped to my Iaido training: before performing any movement in the kata we had to visualize the scenario of the kata and then “be there”, mentally and psychologically, then transmit this presence not only with the cuts but with the eyes and full presence as well.

In Aikido we focus more on zanshin, 残心, the state of mind at the completion of an action (important in Iaido as well). Combining this with the feeling before any movement, with seme, the technique, if necessary, becomes whole. If your opponent has also a budo mind, probably would see in your eyes there is no need to fight.

Anyway, there are only my personal considerations: long time I do not practice Iaido and my teacher was never a recognized one. Also, being only at the beginning of my martial art path, if I wrote something too silly, please forgive me. But these are my feelings, my understanding for now.

I got more or less the full video (unfortunately lots of Japanese talking, bad audio, no English), but I have to uploaded to youtube (in some ways.. remember, the great firewall of China!!)..

On the way to Zilina!

20 07 2009

Last day in Vienna.. ops, ok, it is better I explain a bit: all these outdoor activities I had in the last days, adding today ones (a tour on a horse-drawn carriage, home made maki-sushi, a bath in Danube) there were not really performed in Vienna-Vienna, capital of Austria.. but in Velm, the village where Margit lives.. or if not here, around here.. 🙂

So tomorrow early morning we will drive to Zilina for Endo sensei week seminar. We heard the weather forecast for this coming week: from 31 degrees tomorrow to a top on Thursday, here in Vienna.. Zilina is quite close.. we are going to sweat liters liters of water!!!! Then we must drink.. yeah, water too 😉

Today great Iaido session, doing a lot of old forms from Okudan series, from the old experience of Robert! I wonder what I will rmeember, but I am sure I will remember again how much I loved Iaido. A good way to use the tons of free time in the evenings I will have back in Stavanger!

Good night for now!!!

Blue Monday

13 07 2009

Or Monday blue? No, not the color, but the kind of feelings that usually on Mondays (but not only) sweep over my mind. of course memories that I have not managed yet to wipe out. Not completely, or not at all.. yeah.. that is a huge difference!

On the other hand I had a great weekend in Trondheim with several old friends and I wonder if it is also source of nostalgic thoughts. Great food, great time, great fun exploring a new pub and spending the night dancing.. yeah, I can still dance and I got proof that someone enjoys also that.. She was tall, she was cute, she was black and she could move, for pit’s sake! It was a while since last “dirty dancing” session in some Norwegian bar, and I had a good time.. I did not try though to check if she was interested in more, better leaving as a winner! At least I have learned this lately!! 😀

iaido practiceTonight I went back to old methods to stop my thinking: a good Aikido practice trying to keep up the tempo followed by a Iaido, 居合道 session.. first time after ages!!! Last time I took up my sword was exactly last summer, in Vaulen, with Bob. Almost one year ago, after I checked the link!! The main reason, besides killing my silly mind, is that this coming weekend I’ll travel to Vienna to practice some Iaido with Margit, before going with her to Endo sensei seminar in Slovakia.

Iaido @ Vaulen
It was actually very nice to swing the sword, but I have forgotten so much! Both from Muso Shinden Ryū, 夢想神伝流, koryu school and Seitei Iaido, 制定 居合道. “Koryu“, 古流, refers to the ancient styles, and I had practiced Omori-ryū, Hasegawa Eishin-ryū and a few kata from two other schools not included in Muso Shinden-ryū: Keshi-ryū and Toyama-ryū, 戸山流. Tonight I focused on Omori-ryu.. with not so good results..

Still, I felt alive.. trying to focus, as in the past, on the little movements, on the essence of Iaido. Feel the little details, they all make the big picture.. appearance is not all, there must be substance, in all martial arts.. in life.. not like the source of my bad thoughts lives her life.. and suddenly my mind was at peace..

I also know that to be at peace, myself, as a complete person, I must move from here.. and that is also life..