Sunday 15th April in Thomastown
Sunday 15th April in Thomastown
Nore Valley Aikido has re-started their second weekly class. Every Monday evening 7.30 till 9 in Thomastown Scouts Hall. Beginners are Welcome. Our other class is in Jerpoint, about 2 miles outside of Thomastown. Training is held 3 Thursdays of the month from 6 till 7.30. Call to confirm.
Contact me on 0857245321 if you’d like to attend. Any other enquiries via email please. firstname.lastname@example.org
Information for beginners.
This sign was placed on a wall in the Iwama Dojo by Saito Sensei to encourage correct practice.
It is often taking out of context. That Aikido is a passive light Art. It isn’t. It fact resistance is a part of Aikido training, but at some point students must have went through a phase of using too much resistance and thus Saito Sensei saw a need in putting up this sign. If you are stopping one technique from taking place you are not teaching it and have forgotten about the other 99% of the practice which calls into questions the motivation for training. If the desire to train is fueled by a deep curiosity to understand Aikido then the student will train in such a way as to best learn. Otherwise there is likely an urge to compete, which is often counterproductive to Aikido practice and also to most traditional Budo.
For example if I apply this to Kenjutsu training. Instead of using brute strength to overcome my partner I can use speed and easily confuse a student less experienced than myself. I have trained with people like this. It is completely unhelpful and requires little skill. The approach to study must be one that is effective and of help to fellow students.
In my own practice I see it as essential that each individual is able to progress as best they can. There is no point in grabbing a beginning student with all of your strength or a child the same way as an adult. Doing so would only encourage a tense and aggressive reaction devoid of technique. Another importance aspect is that using excessive strength always takes the student out of the moment. The Uke is not to preempt the technique but is too give a solid, honest grab and response. A link to a previous article on this subject is below.
Aikido Tachi Dori. Tori is myself Joseph Kennedy, Uke is Steve. Filmed in Kilkenny by Dominika. Editing and Music by me.
This is the first in a series I will make demonstrating Aikido technique when applied against sword, staff and tanto. I try to make good use of the blunt side of the sword and my partners grip on it. For example the Shiho-nage I show here is significantly different from what is usually performed. I step through my partners line whilst making a cutting action towards the leg. Being Aikido the Uke avoids this cut and stepping back. The end throw is not done with a step as usual but with a cut. Similar considerations are made in the other techniques. This training is very useful in teaching the Irimi principle. Irimi means entering. Enter as direct as possible. This may seem counter intuitive to some. The reasons become obvious with practice. If you step even a little to much to the side, the sword holder can simply turn and cut again. There are two ‘Good’ positions for Tachi Dori. One is to step in and be as close as possible, preferably striking while gaining control of the sword. The other Good position is a mile away.
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a traditional Japanese Martial Arts developed by Morihei Ueshiba based on his practice of several Martial Arts most notably Daito Ryu Jujutsu. The practice of Aikido includes weapons training in conjunction with basic training.
How is it different from other martial arts?
Aikido has a unique basis as an non violent martial art. With this in mind we aim to cause little to no damage. At a higher level this is internalised into a state of non contention. Aikido is also non competitive. All students teach each other and improve together. You can not get better without your training partners.
What is Aiki?
I have heard this term explained in so many different ways and I would recommend people to research this for themselves. In the context of Aikido, aiki is blending with your partner to led to a conclusion utilising extension and relaxed centered movement. After some years of practice this harmonization of opposites shifts from the external to the internal.
Does it work?
For self defence – There are two ways to answer this. Yes and No. If it is self defence that a student is specifically interested in learning they will likely give up very quickly. With Aikido it takes about a year to get even a basic understanding of how it works and far longer for it to be considered as effective. For self defence there are far quicker and more efficient methods available. For the more subtle aspects of training to feel apparent it most definitely works. You should feel more relaxed and open from training . Also applying the principles of training into your daily life you may be able to resolve and avoid conflicts more often than not.
Is it good for you?
Yes I think so although it does depend on the individual. The training is quite sustainable in that all the movements should be natural for the body. You should start to feel more open and flexible after about a month. I find that I often have more energy after a class than before. Of course for the most benefit it is necessary to train as consistently as life will allow.
Who can train?
Anyone can train. The only requirement is an interest. Young and old can practice together. A student’s level of fitness is not an issue for starting. We train at our own pace. Risk of injury is kept to a minimum. Any personal injuries must be reported before starting so that it can be taken into consideration by all training.
Are there any guidelines for training?
Recently I attended a Aikido seminar given by Patrick Cassidy Sensei in the Dojo of Ray Butcher in Dublin. Patrick teaches in such a way that people can explore Aikido at different levels of depth. One technical and another coming from sensation. The study of Aikido is often lacking in the kind of sensitivity that Patrick is teaching. A student will often focus too much on the outward technique and ignore the more subtle aspects. For example in pinning techniques such as Nikkyo, Sankyo and Kote Gaeshi it is easy to focus on the wrist or shoulder, however this prevents attaining a connection to Uke’s centre. In other words if you attack the wrist that is all you will get.
By opening up more it is possible to feel into the centre and the feet of your partner. To study this Patrick first explained in terms of positioning and we practiced. Then he repeated the same thing but with sensitivity, done like this it is slightly different each time. I noticed that he called up many people to take Ukemi, I think he does this in order that the group has a direct feeling of what to look for. This way the sense of Aikido can be more clearly transmitted.
After the lunch break training got a lot more rigorous. We explored a freer side of training. Flowing movements while maintaining the connection to our partner. I found this is be liberating and exhausting in equal measure. It is however extremely enjoyable and a great way to put the principles of Aikido into practice.
For Patrick, finding and keeping this connection both to ourselves and each other seems to be an important focus of his approach to Aikido. I certainly have a lot to learn in this area and classes with Patrick give some very useful tools to make our Aikido more mindful. Surely the preservation of life is an integral part of Aikido and the first step towards this must be to gain a greater sense of empathy with each other. Patrick and some other instructors I have trained with and written about see Aikido as a means to improve human society starting with ourselves. No simple matter at all but by creating and training in a more focused open state of mind we can create a space for others to follow suit.
Patrick Cassidy is living in Montreux, Switzerland where besides from Aikido he also teaches Yoga and Meditation. He teaches in Ireland at least once a year in the Henshin Aikido Dojo.
Aikido Montreux – aikidomontreux.com
Henshin Aikido – www.balanceireland.com/aikido
In September I started a monthly Intensive training group. A 3 and a half hours of Keiko held in our Jerpoint Dojo once a month till the end of the year. Instead of focusing on techniques I chose to explore a different principle for each session. We started with Zanshin and will move on to Shoshin, Mushin, Tanren and so on. It seemed like the logical thing to do and allows for people of different level to come train together and get from the experience what they can. I will write about this course after Christmas when it has been completed. I will likely chose a different structure for the training group next year.
Sangen – this image by Sengai (1750 – 1838) can be interpreted in numerous ways. Ueshiba would draw on this symbolism to explain Aikido. Explanations differing depending on the emphasis. Technique, Principle or Philosophy. The concept of Sangen is so all encompassing with so many different aspects to consider. With a subject as holistic as Aikido it seems to me to be an essential idea and one which I hope by trying to understand, I can improve my Aikido and help my students in turn.
Triangle – Stance before contact. Circle – The spiralling nature of all Aikido technique whether Omote or Ura. Square – The Power of Kokyu and pinning techniques such as Ikkyo.
All Aikido movements should contain these elements. Take Suwari Waza Kokyu Ho as an example. The stance Seiza is triangular. The movements of hands is first circular and then more square. Ikkyo is at first direct, then spherical with the angles of attack begin triangular. The emphasis is different between the Omote and Ura but both contain similar elements.
The more philosophical aspects. Triangle – A solid base ascending upwards. Also various trinities. Body, mind and Spirit. Heaven, Earth and Humanity. Past, Present and Future. Circle – Spiraling motion. Perfection. Emptiness and infinity. Square – Solid form. Order.
Move like a beam of light;
Fly like lightning,
Strike like thunder,
Whirl in circles around
A stable center. Morihei Ueshiba – The Art of Peace
For more on this subject read – aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-structure-universe/
This article is a continuation from the piece ‘Adaptation’ which I wrote following our Spring Seminar.
Last month we held our week long Summer School with Sensei Simone Chierchini at various locations in the south east.
If there was a theme for the week , it would have to be Takemusu. First I try to explain what that means. ‘Take’ is usually understood to mean the same as bu in bujutsu or budo. ‘Musu’ is to give birth too. So Takemusu Aikido is too spontaneously adapt to the changing circumstances of life through limitless creativity and expression.
One of the things I appreciate very much about how Simone teaches is that he tends not to teach a lot of techniques at a time. Instead he seems to prefer a focus on principle. It is very common in Martial Arts in general for people to get bogged down with learning techniques. With the sheer scope of Aikido this can get frustrating very quickly. Focusing on the syllabus too much can actually slow down the learning process.
However to delve into Takemusu it is necessary to have solid ground to work from. Study the basics enough, then move on, adapt, experiment and return again to the basics, the kihon. Constantly ensuring that training is still grounded in good principle and a Budo mindset. This kind of training would take many forms. Whether weapons practice, Taijutsu or Kokyu the idea is too free up the mind and see what has been truly understood by the body.
Take Jiyu Waza for example. Jiyu Waza is a free style practice common to most Aikido Dojo, usually one person acting as Tori and one or more as Uke. Regardless of the level of a student it is possible to see how well they have absorbed the training. A fixation on technique will quickly land the student in difficulty as their reaction time will be too slow. I would say to my students doing this exercise it is better to repeat the same technique 10 times than to pause in thought of what to do. Better still is is clear the mind and continuously move forwards absorbing the attacks before their at full strength. Stepping back should be only be done strategically.
To better enable a student to respond to changing circumstances, Simone had us practice at 3 different timings. One where Tori initiates the attack, another where we meet in the middle and the third waiting a moment and extending the attack. These timings are important to practice. Each equal in their own right. To practice just one of these would take training in far too specific a direction. For example by only focusing on the third of waiting and then extending the attack the important principle of moving forward would be lacking. Likewise by focusing on the first, a student may become too forward in their training and perhaps forget the softer side of training. For the concept of Takemusu to be explored, a student must first possess the correct reflexes in order to continually adapt.
This is in a way a goal of Kata, to instill these reflexes into the mind of a student. Adding a more free form of practice beside this and you see that has been absorbed. The student becoming one with the training can than start with Takemusu.
Freely moving the mind can become clear and enter into the moment, unconcerned for tomorrow or yesterday. In this way Aikido can be a way for people to become free of mental constraints and preconceptions.
Takemusu Aikido Ireland Summer Course 2015 Gallery – wp.me/p38PwO-cL
As part of our Summer Course we had a day of training at my home in the Rower. After coffees we trained for 2 hours at least half of which was suburi. As usual Simone emphasises the basics and improves on them before moving on to more complex applications.
Written in collaboration with my Aikido teacher and friend, Sensei Simone Chierchini. Head Instructor of the International Aikido Academy which I represent in Ireland. Other Dojo in Italy, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Adaptability was a theme of our Aikido Spring Course. Sensei Simone stressed the importance of retaining flexibility of mind. For this to sink in it is important to keep calm ,centered, and not to fixate on technique. It is easy of course to fall into the trap of applying techniques against the will of an attacker\ partner but in terms of learning Aiki its pointless. Moving from the centre, an attack must be led to its logical conclusion, without resorting to brunt strength or with aggression.
The ability to adapt to different situations and people is at the heart of Aikido. In particular this touches the meaning of Takemusu Aiki. For Simone Takemusu Aikido is not defined by techniques but by the idea of Takemusu. With the study of natural movement and principles, the expression of Aikido should sprout spontaneously, like water from a well. Therefore his teaching is centered around encouraging this in others. In his words ‘My vision of training in Aikido is that of, looking for the authentic and individual spark that we all have and to be able to manifest it, at least to some degree.’ Kata and Kihon exercises are extremely useful insofar as instilling martial principles and correct body habits. But the more dynamic, fluid and expressive aspect of Aikido must be explored as well. ‘any kind of training I propose, even the army style ones, with rigid forms and no freedom, is actually intended to evolve into an increasingly wider degree of freedom of movement and expression. Aikido for me means to gain access to tools of self enlightenment.’
Also when training with these things in mind, it becomes easier for the body to absorb the underlying principles. For example for some beginning students, the temptation is to studying the technique, to understand it at an intellectual level. This is useful to the extent of learning footwork but litte further. To truly begin to train we must learn to switch off the head and being to study with body and mind integrated. When the student has absorbed the basics, it should become possible to explore Takemusu Aiki. Breaking free of restraints and moving freely.
When not focused on technique we can relax our minds and hopefully the underlining principles of Aiki can start to seep in. How may this be helpful in general life? For example when faced with confrontation it is easier to hold to our own fixed view. Inflexible and unable to comprehend the reality of what may be going on. If we are able to apply the ideas of Takemusu into daily life we should gain a greater understanding of ourselves and others.
Besides from Ireland, Sensei Simone is also teaching in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and of course Italy. The week before coming to Ireland he had been in Iran. Between teaching he was able to do a lot of site seeing and to immerse himself into this fascinating culture. He found the Iranian people to be wonderfully warm, open and joyous. This contradicts the impression of the European mainstream and perhaps suggests that many of our preconceived notions may of off center if not completely incorrect. We often hold so true to our own ideas and beliefs that we cant see the wood for the trees.
Bringing this idea full circle and back to training. We train together as a Dojo.
We are all training with the same aim. To know who we are.