But what is Aunkai? Aunkai is new training method founded by Minoru Akuzawa Sensei. Akuzawa Sensei has an extensive background in martial arts. It is clear that internal martial arts has had the most lasting impact on him as he has made this the sole focus of his training. So while Aunkai itself is new, the ideas and skill sets go back many centuries.
|Gray tying a knot into participants at the|
Auckland Aunkai seminar in Nov 2014
In my own journey of Wing Chun study, I have seen first hand the advantages of an internal focus. I used to train a version of Wing Chun that was very technique oriented. One day, I came across a little known group of Wing Chunners that had a more internal focus. They were from the Chu Shong Tin lineage of Wing Chun. When I practiced Chi Sao with them (sticky hands), I immediately noticed the difference. These guys would cut through my structures with relative ease and I found myself having to move twice as fast as them to compensate for my own lack of structure. While it felt forceful, they appeared to be way more relaxed than me. Having an integrated body and structure meant they were able to take the more direct approach where I had been trained to go around.
The problem with the “go around” or “divert the force” approach found in many Wing Chun schools and martial arts, is that you never get to develop the knowledge and body awareness of what to do with pressure and how to move the body and limbs in ways that integrates your mass to its potential. When I tried to explain this to my old Wing Chun classmates, they disapproved and thought that force on force meant activating muscle and using strength. This is a misunderstanding.
I would like to dispel a myth about internal martial arts. When you see it in practice it looks very soft and gentle. However, to be on the receiving end of it can be one of the most brutal things you will ever feel. There are probably many ways internal martial arts can be expressed. However, in the case of the Wing Chun group I came across, one of the first things I noticed was the shock to my limbs and my spine. The second time I felt this type of force was with Akuzawa Sensei, the founder of Aunkai.
Having to move back to Japan from NZ for family reasons was unfortunate because I had to end my Wing Chun training. In Tokyo it was hard to find a martial art with a similar approach, so I joined a BJJ school. I kept my eyes open and eventually my search led me to the Aunkai dojo in Tokyo. Meeting Akuzawa sensei was amazing. He made me and another newcomer face each other and grasp each other’s hands strongly. He then gently placed his hand over ours and suddenly brought his arm down. Our arms were brought down with such force that it caused my head to whiplash forward. It was quite a shock to my nervous system and spine. I knew then that Aunkai was what I had been looking for.
|Gray with Watanabe Manabu Hanshi at the |
Auckland Aunkai seminar Nov 2014
I found Akuzawa Sensei’s personality and approach to martial arts quite refreshing. One of the ways he stands out from other internal martial artists is in how dynamic and explosively fast his movements are. Another difference is his belief that internal martial arts can be applied in competitive fighting arenas. He himself has had extensive competitive fighting experience and he encourages his students to get out and compete in anything from Sanda to K1. One of his students I spoke with regularly fought in amateur heavy weight K1 tournaments.
Unfortunately, I had to return to Auckland before I could really get going in Aunkai. While I kept up my Wing Chun and BJJ. I kept contemplating Aunkai and stayed active on the Aunkai forum. Wherever I could, I would find friends to practice standing push out with. I would regularly check the internet to see if anyone was practicing Aunkai in Auckland. Fortunately my persistence paid off and I found a reference to Aunkai on Filip’s Jikishin Dojo Auckland website. I quickly emailed him and got a speedy reply. It was great to make contact with someone who shared my enthusiasm.
Filip and Liam organized Akuzawa Sensei’s first visit to NZ in November 2014. I attended the two day seminar in Auckland, which was amazing! About a week after the seminar certain things started to click for me and I was able to do some of the more advanced Wing Chun structural tests with ease. Filip was also inspired and got to spend a lot of time with Akuzawa Sensei during his stay here in NZ and since then there are two Aunkai study groups in New Zealand, one in Christchurch and one here in Auckland (training every Thursday evening at Jikishin Dojo). At the moment classes are still small, but I am finding them extremely rewarding and love the fact that we are keeping up and developing our Aunkai skills for the next time Akuzawa Sensei and/or other instructors might come to visit. Filip himself is very open-minded and we both appreciate each other’s arts. Aunkai bridges the gap between our two arts and thanks to Filip, I am able to see a side of Aikido that I was unaware of.
|Gray Gillespie, Akuzawa Sensei & Filip Maric |
and the mandatory after-training beers!
I believe there is an emerging martial art movement where more and more people are becoming inspired by the possibilities of internal martial arts and how it can benefit their practice. I have no doubt that Aunkai’s popularity will continue to grow both in New Zealand and abroad. If this sounds like your cup of tea, why don’t you join us on Thursdays at the Jikishin Dojo? We would love to have you there!
Gray Gillespie, 22 June 2015, Auckland, NZ