Aikido for a Modern Way of Life
Hello everyone! It has already been two years since my husband passed away. I have been able to rise again by "some incident," while everyone in Seidokan Aikido has extended me warm support. In my communications with the Seidokan dojos, I feel strongly that Rod is still here with us. I regret that I could not attend the summer camp in Michigan and spend time with everyone. This was mainly because I have had my own struggle coming back from shock and sorrow in the last two years. I'm sorry about not being able to send this message earlier although I have tried several times.
I mentioned earlier "some incident" that has helped me through this time. What comes to mind is Katatetori Tenkan Undo. Rod always guided us to "walk forward." As you know, every technique has its own deep meaning. I am truly thankful to this meaning of "walking forward," as it has helped me to regain confidence in my life.
It is important to live your life in accordance with what you believe in. Rod always wished that everyone would share knowledge with others and apply Aikido in daily life. I sincerely hope all of you who practiced with him continue training and progressing through "Shoshin ni kaeru" or "Returning to the beginning."
At this time, I would like to share with you, the Seidokan motto which
Rod used (the first quote). The second quote was taken from one of O-sensei's
|Hyakuman Isshin, Hyakudai Isshin
Million, One Mind,
Spreading Aiki Forever
Aiki towa yorozu
Aiki is the power of all things working together,
Constantly improve yourselves students of Aikido
As with many things in Aikido, you can't have one without the other two. Specifically, Blend, Lead, and Control. I personally feel that too many people place too much emphasis on contol while practicing in the dojo and in daily life. To blend and harmonize is to control oneself and then to become part of another. I was once asked how can you become a friend to one who intends to harm you? My answer is that if we do not become one with the attacker, the technique may work, but not with much efficiency. Many of the techniques have come from marital arts and so they may be applied in a way that relies on pain and leverage. This, to me, is not Seidokan Aikido. To those of you whom I have hurt during practice and are wondering about my writing this article in this fashion, I apologize again. I'm still working on practicing what I preach!
Prior to Kobayashi Sensei's death, I felt that his techniques had developed to a point where there was no feeling. I would end up taking ukemi that would blow the breath out of my lungs. When I did this, Sensei would always say that I threw myself too hard. I'm sure we all know the feeling. I would probably argue about who had the control at that point.
Both uke and nage have a great deal of control in any technique. They both have the ability to make or break the technique. I'm sure we have all had a similar experience where the technique would not work because the person attacking did not feel that it would. It is very hard to control a person who knows what you are going to do without relying on pain. As an uke, we must all learn to attack with Mushin (no mind) and allow the nage to harmonize with us. I am very grateful to all my teachers, friends, and students who have allowed me to do this as both uke and nage.
The word control can mean many things to different people. In my opinion, I would consider getting out of a dangerous conflict without lifting a hand as the ultimate control. By practicing the four basic principles, we should be able to see a way out of the conflict. To me, practicing the principles of Aikido is hardest when there is a spouse or sibling involved. To those of you who do this, I give you my applause. I think that in this sense, we can not seek to control, but rather only to harmonize.
Oh well! Let us get back to the principle of control. I would like to describe to you a technique as an example of what I feel is proper control. Have the uke stand closer to the nage than usual. Instruct the uke to throw a slow punch to the nage's chin, then have the nage step off the line. Next have the nage place both hands on the forearm of the uke, have him grip tightly. Instruct the uke to throw another punch at nage. There should be a real time lag between the uke's punch and the nage's reaction. Try the same thing with the nage holding light enough to feel the uke's pulse through the forearm. The results should be dramatic.
The explanation is simple: By squeezing the uke's forearm you allowed
him to have control of you. By being able to feel the uke's pulse, you
practiced the four basic principles and became one with yourself and then
the uke. The reason why I used the punch to the chin is that we don't practice
this very much and you can feel the difference easier. When you are one
with a person, the person's moves become your moves. In so doing, you can
control the situation by controlling yourself. Once again, we follow the
principle of circularity.
Occasionally, in order to truly understand a path, one must stray from it.
Unable to pursue Aikido in a manner satisfactory to me after a moderate shoulder injury in August 1995, I pursued several other martial arts. In these arts (more punching/kicking and some aikijujutsu) aiki was either used as ground for manipulation or eschewed as "martial vegetarianism." Both positions were consistent with my philosophy at the time (and may in fact have been my own projection) which was for the most part corrective rather than based on compassion for the Other as an extension of the Self. Why shouldn't I hurt a person who hurts me or tries to hurt me, or at least let them run into the ground in the attempt?
I reached a turning point in late March 1996 when I attended the Awasu ("Blending") seminar at Sensei Ross Robertson's (Yondan, Seidokan Aikido) Still Point dojo in Austin, Texas. Robertson Sensei used a variety of teaching techniques focusing on awareness and sensitivity that allowed me a far greater understanding of the importance of blending throughout an attack, from intention to resolution. His questions for the participants went far beyond the standard rhetorical, "what is ki", delving into human psychology and spirituality. The interactivity of the seminar was an espresso antidote to the standard "teacher tell" methods I have occasionally experienced. I discovered ways to analyze the art without taking the heart out of it. The following are some of my conclusions based on meditations after the seminar, months later.
Aiki must imply a connection. Some psychologists theorize that any pain or antagonism in the Self is acted out on the Other. Likewise, any pain given to the Other is pain experienced by the Self. Therefore, the concept of blending, of unity, in Aikido applies. It extends boundlessly, in a philosophical sense.
To make others an extension of my Self causes me to extend my sensitivity
and compassion further in both directions, healing me, and, I hope, those
Nov. 28 - 29, 1997: AIA Annual Thanksgiving Seminar, Los Angeles. Fri. 3-5: Chan Sensei, 7-9 Wadahara Sensei. Sat 9-11: Kawakami Sensei, 1-3 Crotty Sensei. For information call 213 667-2428.
March 6, 7, 8, 1998: St. Louis Seminar with Doug Wedell, Sensei. This Aikido workshop is sponsored by the Aikido Institute of Mid-America. For information contact Richard Harnack, 314-647-0903.
June 12-14, 1998. Summer Camp hosted by Cal State Long Beach
Aikido Club. Mark your calendars!
Kokyu refers to breath and is closely related to the concept of ki. Kokyunage, or "breath throw," embodies the idea that the timing, flow, and connection of the moment is all that is needed to unbalance the attacker. In traditional Aikido, only a few techniques have specific names and the rest are known collectively as kokyunage. For example, what we call hijiotoshi (elbow drop), makiotoshi (spiral drop), and zenponage (forward throw) would all be called kokyunage in traditional schools.
In Seidokan Aikido, we have reserved the name kokyunage for the specific art in which we step aside to the weak side of the opponent and cut down the elbow and neck. This technique is illustrated in the first set of pictures. I am attacking munetsuki (chest punch) and Kobayashi Sensei is stepping aside, connecting, and dropping me down using kokyunage. In many ways, kokyunage is the simplest of our techniques and is founded on the Hitoashi Yokete Doka of O-sensei. When the opponent attacks strongly, we take one step aside and apply the simplest technique. The basic version of kokyunage illustrated represents years of paring down and simplification of the standard irimi nage technique of traditional Aikido. Instead of entering, turning, cutting down, raising up, entering again and cutting down - the movement becomes step aside and cut immediately "Hitoashi yokete suguni kirubeshi."
In the first set of pictures I fell forward. However, how uke falls is largely up to uke. In the next series of photos Kobayashi Sensei illustrates what he called the banyo aigo version of kokyunage. Here the attacker has braced himself so that he does not want to fall down forward. Rather than force uke to fall in a way he does not wish to, Kobayashi Sensei instructed us to embrace the attacker with the spirit of loving protection. Once this is done, the attacker will fall as nage turns his body. Banyu Aigo means the "spirit of loving protection." The movement is still kokyunage, but it is simply finished differently to follow the flow of the situation.
Indeed, there are an infinite number of variations for any Aikido technique as each application must take into account the unique aspects of the moment. Kokyunage is readily identifiable within these varied forms. When done properly, it reflects the principles of both hitoashi yokete and banyo aigo.
(Note: These pictures were taken in the Fall of 1993 at a seminar
conducted at the University of South Carolina).
- Emily Dolan
Standing calmly amidst a sea of chaos,
I step aside and let him drop to the ground...
- Doug Wedell
The Seidokan Communicator is published quarterly. I will also be editing the next issue (due out at the end of December). Please remember, your submissions make this newsletter possible. Send articles about your dojo, your instructor, a recent seminar, philosophical insights, technical descriptions, and other Aikido related materials to me so we can keep up communication in Seidokan Aikido. Send materials to
501 Doncaster Dr.
Irmo, SC 29063.
Email submissions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions? Call me at 803-781-9242 or 803-777-4258