May 26, 2022
I want to welcome Diana and Bryon to our dojo. It’s exciting that we will need more welcome books packets soon.
Memorial Day – Monday, May 30. Dojo is Closed
Hakama Class – Sunday, May 29, 11:00 am. This is mandatory for all ASNJ instructors; instructors from any dojo are welcome. There is no charge.
Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, June 8, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to attend.
Summer BBQ and Kyu test – Saturday, July 30. We always have a big barbeque in the summer. Aren’t that what summers are for? Please put this in your calendar. If I was a computer guy, I would insert a calendar thingy you could just click on. Oh Well. I can do Aikido.
I was talking with an old friend about moving smoothly while practicing Aikido. We discussed the need to slow down to move smoothly. Speed, like learning any anything, comes with practice and time. There is another concept that I have seen that greatly effects smoothness. That is our brain (I hate to keep bringing that up but, well, it is kind of an important organ.). Smoothness is an idea that you express with your body. How you think about a technique is how it will look. Let’s look.
If you look at a technique, like someone learning, karate you would see it as two parts. Blocking or avoiding an attack, and then the counterattack or the throw (in Karate, that would be a punch or a kick). The technique would have two separate parts with a pause in the middle while you switch modes, defense to attack. But that is not what Aikido is about. The connection experienced in the attack is the entire technique. That connection is one movement as you receive the attack until the uke either gets thrown or is pinned. It is not necessary to view Aikido as an adversarial modality and perform it as a two-part idea, just follow the attack to its conclusion – one smooth movement.
In Tai Chi Chuan, the goal is to “open” your joints. This starts by relaxing. Then, as you become aware, you create space in your joints. The joint is opened by adding space between the bones. This happens in Aikido also. It all starts with relaxing. Koichi Tohei, in one of his books, says the most important thing he learned from O’Sensei was how to relax. Relax and open your joints (I think it sounds like a business plan for a marijuana dispensary.). How do you relax?
You relax by not doing anything, not by doing nothing. You cannot do nothing. That is doing something. You cannot relax by ‘doing’ nothing. That is an oxymoron. In physics, you can have kinetic energy or potential energy. You can have action or inactivity. In music, you play a note or rest. One is doing something; the other is not. The opposite of doing something is not doing anything. You cannot relax by doing, only by stopping the action, in this case, tension. To observe this, lift an arm and holding it out sideways and try to relax. After two minutes, try to stop holding your arm out. Gravity will bring it down. You cannot relax but you can stop tensing.
The concept is easy. Cease the action of tensing and you are relaxed. So, why isn’t everyone reading this now completely relaxed like some enlightened swami at the top of a snow-covered mountain wearing only a loin cloth? Because we need to become aware of the experience of the tension in our bodies. We do this by awareness. We practice Aikido, we practice Tai Chi Chuan, we meditate to be more aware of ourselves (At least I hope we practice these things). So, pay attention to what you are experiencing when you practice. Pay attention to when the technique feels forced or when it is not smooth. That is where and when you are being tense. Relax already. Have a smoothie.
Back Around Again
Let’s keep expanding our backs. We talked about it in the last letter and I added opening the joints but let’s think about Oshiro. I love that O’Sensei included techniques that happen behind us to make sure we think about Aikido as a complete sphere, not a hemisphere. Why would anyone every grab your arm and say, “I am going to run behind this person and grab their other hand?” Suuuure. That happens every fight. It is nage who makes this decision, not uke. Uke attacks by running straight at you. You raise your arm toward uke’s face so they grab your arm in defense or run into your hand realizing what a bad idea that was and will leave you alone then. Draw uke in and turn your body so uke has no choice to go behind you. The last thing you want to do at this point is stop moving with an angry (because they just ran into your hand?) attacker behind you. This is bad. To quote Dr. Spengler from Ghost Busters “It would be bad.” Keep moving in a circle, in a sphere. To do this, think about a sphere so uke will run into you. Make a sphere by rounding your back and move and think circularly. If you pull your shoulder blades behind you, you are stopping the flow behind you. Be round, with your spine straight, but be round. Otherwise, you and uke will collide (unless they like to needlessly run behind you). Remember, again in the words or Dr. Spengler “Don’t cross the streams.” Aikido is round, so is your back.
“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido