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!
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).
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…