David & Hisae Lynch - Pioneers of Aikido in New Zealand - 20 April 2015

Last week I met a remarkable man, a remarkable couple I should say, namely David and Hisae Lynch. I had heard and read about David and Hisae a few years ago already and had always wanted to meet them, but somehow the stars just never aligned. Well, now they did and I couldn't be happier about it.

On Thursday last week I made the trip along the coast of the Coromandel side of the Firth of Thames and across the beautiful Coromandel Forest Park, which seemed to be just the perfect road trip prior to meeting David and Hisae. 

About 18 years ago they moved out to Coromandel and sometime after started building an adjacent dojo next to their home, surrounded by 67-acres of native bush. 

I'm not entirely sure what to add to the information that is available about David and his various Dojo's online, so I will provide some links to said material later on, and just add a very few, brief first impressions of my own and let the photos speak a little more.

The first and most outstanding of these first impressions is without a doubt the simple, unpretentious and pure friendliness that one meets upon arrival in both David and Hisae, something that the following photo and their smiles can maybe convey a lot better than I can in words.
At the risk of sounding completely off-key, if not downright rude, there is really 'nothing special' about David and Hisae. But when I say 'nothing special' I mean this as one of the highest compliments I can make and my primary point of reference is a calligraphy that used to hang at the wall of my old home Dojo in Germany with the Kanji for 'Bu Ji', which wrongly or not, was translated underneath the image as 'Nothing special (Not trying/wanting to be anything special). From this background I consider it either just a given happenstance or a very special something that David and Hisae have achieved in there being 'nothing special' about them.

This is of particular importance in a case or in lives like theirs in which there has been and still is every reason to consider them quite special. Amongst the 'special' bits of note is of course the fact that they are truly pioneers of Aikido in New Zealand, having introduced the art here 50 years ago. If you are curious about historical detail, just recently, David published a booklet covering their part of the history of Aikido over the last 50 years that you can read and download here and that I highly recommend.

Next to that, David trained directly and for considerable periods of time under some of the best known names in the history of the art, most notably Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda and Koichi Tohei. Photos of the latter two still hang in David's office, right above a window overlooking the incredible Dojo built into the middle of their own little forest. The next photo shows the view from that window into the Dojo, from which I can only imagine David shaking his head over the incompetence of us beginners as we train there. ;)

Inside the Dojo, amongst other things, one can also find David's 6th Dan certificate, issued to him by none less than Gozo Shioda Sensei himself, giving evidence of and a direct connection to a very special time in the history of the art of which David and Hisae were and are very much a part of to this day.

The best way to have a look into and around the Dojo is obviously by visiting yourself, but if you are curious for something more immediate, there are two good videos on the Koru Dojo NZ youtube channel and more information on the website of Koru Dojo in Coromandel. There is also a separate website for the Koshinkai Dojo Auckland, the Auckland home of David's group, which I also highly recommend. Both Dojos are without a doubt amongst the nicest Dojos I have seen in New Zealand thus far.

I hope to have more chances of this sort in the future, but I can finally say that I've had the honour to train with him at least for a short while. David took some time for some casual practice in the Dojo and introduced a visiting student and me to some of the fundamental concepts from Tohei Sensei's practice.

As you can see in the photos, several attempts at trying to explain something to and have me understand and do it myself, posed a considerable test to David's patience, finally leading him to turn away from me and to his guest, who proved to be a much more talented and amenable student.

The critical point here is the same I have made before, namely the fact that it is not only possible to joke and write like this with and about a true master of the art. David is exactly this light-hearted. There is zero air of superiority about him, despite every reason there could in theory be for it and I have to say I love that about him. Despite or maybe even because of his apparent passion for Aikido and his continuing practice for such a long time, David shows no signs of taking himself too seriously, but rather emanates the wisdom of someone who has seen and heard a lot over the years and has no need to force himself or his opinions on others. His great humour about all that he has seen shines a bright light into his poetry, including the following poem that he has published sometime ago and reposted on Facebook not too long ago. I've loved it so much, I just couldn't help myself from snatching it from there to share it with you all here:

New Age Ending:

I've been Pulsed
I've been Rolfed
I have Alexanderised

I've had Mudras
I've had Mantras
I have Moshe Feldenkraised

I've been pricked with Acupuncture
I have Yoga's and I've Zenned
Yet I never cease to wonder:

Where will all this end?

Seriously and simply put, David is just the most approachable guy you can possibly imagine and I would say that that alone classifies him as a teacher anyone should strive to learn from. If you prowl the internet you will find a lot more both about and by him that is very worthwhile studying. I am also aware of at least one Interview with David Lynch in Stanley Pranin's Aikido Journal and at least one article on Aikido contributed by David to the same Journal, both of which I cannot recommend enough for reading. Without a doubt, you can also connect with him on Facebook where you will find him under his name and a profile picture with Yoda of Star Wars. Being an avid fan of Star Wars myself, I have always openly admitted that Star Wars and specifically master Yoda was what got me into this whole Budo thing. Now I don't take anything Star Wars lightly and I don't consider it something to be joked about, so David is pretty much the only person whom I will grant the use of a Yoda picture as a profile pic. 

Exit the Dojo and enter the forest around it, you would have to add surroundings to the list of very special 'nothing special' things, next to the people and Dojo. The little stream that runs through David and Hisae's property, the three swimming (or Misogi) pools, the small and large Kauri trees all add to the magic of it all. But what I loved especially is to see first-hand how David and Hisae relate to their little forest, the little tracks they've created through it, how they  the places they stop to give thanks, the way they look at certain trees, rock formations, and the waterfalls and how they truly live in and with the nature that surrounds them. All of this together, is Aiki-Do at its best.

Bu Ji - Nothing special
I am really glad to know that this was the first of hopefully many more visits to come. A next one I already look forward to is in October, when I will be part of with a small travelling party of the 'Fudoshin Aikido Tour NZ 2015 with Orban Sensei' that will be having a 4 day intensive here in between the big seminars. 

Nothing special, just a very special space, special place and special people. Should you ever need a retreat for your own group, please do contact David and Hisae and they will be sure to answer all your questions and help however they can. The final pictures shows not David and Hisae, but David and myself (just before I attempted climbing up on the shoulders of this gentle giant of Coromandel Forest to get a bit of a view of what is possible on this path). 

Thanks and gratitude to my hosts for the day, you shine a light.
David Lynch & Filip Marić

Intersections & Synergies. A guest post by Seng-Yew (Melbourne/AUS) - 5 March 2015

Hey all, I am delighted to share this guest post by my friend Seng-Yew whom I first met in person in mid-2014 at the Melbourne Systema Seminar with Martin Wheeler, following a brief exchange of emails in regards to our Aunkai seminar later in the year. Seng-Yew is a kindred spirit in more ways than one I believe, even though we have not known each other for very long. He is also a long-time practitioner of Aikido, an Instructor-in-Training in Systema (Vasiliev, Toronto) and maybe most importantly just a very reflected yet open mind. Not wanting to give away the 'moral' of his post, I am very grateful for it, as it perfectly expresses the notion of Budo Kenshu that is the foundation of our practice at Jikishin Dojo Auckland. So with that I leave to enjoy Seng-Yew's reflections..

My journey began with my first love, Aikido. For several years, that had been my sole focus. Whilst researching about the art in those early days, I would intermittently come across a strange, and bizarre art called, Systema. My fascination about this Russian system grew, but any hands-on exploration was limited due to my isolated geography. After moving interstate several years later, I was fortunate enough to learn more about it from a brilliant instructor. Side-by-side with my first love, I began my foray into Systema. My infatuation grew into a passion, and eventually developed into a firm commitment. At times, I questioned about their compatibility, but for the most part, I was able to compartmentalise my training, and use each to build upon the other's strengths. Whenever others asked how I perceived the two seemingly different arts, I would give the analogy that Aikido was akin to classical music, whilst Systema was like jazz. The former, idealistic and refined; the latter, vibrant and full of spontaneity. Both were different, yet both were equally beautiful to me. I refused to give up one for the other, though I secretly feared that one day, I might be made to choose.

So for a few more years, I continued training both side-by-side. Lo and behold, during that time, yet another facet of Aikido started creeping up. Like a pubescent teenager who could not resist the allure of the exotic temptations of this esoteric promise, I started dabbling in this elusive element of training that went by various names: 'aiki', 'internal power' (IP), 'internal work' etc. Having yet another focus in the mix made juggling these various practices that much harder. But no matter, being the young virile man that I was, I felt confident in being able to manage my expanded harem. Unfortunately, as any experienced polygamist would know, the fantasy did not last long before fractures started appearing between the jealous lovers. Several exercises and principles began to contradict each other quite fundamentally. One posited that I should always keep moving, and never stay still. The other asserted that I should be able to root myself, and form an immovable structure. One was erect like a mighty bodhi tree, the other slinking around like a floppy kraken. I was no longer sure I could prevent an existentialist crisis, and it felt like I had to eventually divorce myself from one, or the other. However, as fate would have it, I suddenly lost both my instructors within a span of a month of each other. I became lost myself, and was simply trying to stay afloat.

Seng-Yew with Akuzawa Sensei
(and Adrian Knight in the background)
Fast forward to late 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a Systema-esque workshop by Alex Kostic, and an 'aiki/IP'-esque workshop by Akuzawa Minoru Sensei, just a week apart. Getting the chance to train with various people from different martial backgrounds gave me a rare chance to evaluate my progress. Unexpectedly, the pieces started to fall together then. I cannot be certain, but I suspect that I had finally gotten a sense of how Systema and Aikido--or more specifically 'aiki/IP'--could fit together. For a while now, I had a feeling that they were closely linked, but I always got thrown off by a number of explicit exercises and principles that appeared to contradict each other. Although the memory now seems vague, I recall a brief insight of conceptualising 'aiki/IP' as an inherent structural foundation to work from--but with the shape and flow of Systema movements. 

More importantly, I also found my answer to another puzzle of mine, which was on finding a way to reconcile the different training methodologies. At the aforementioned workshops, I discovered that that I might not really need to! My experiences there suggested that my different trainings have somehow been 'absorbed' into my body, and it came out as needed without me consciously thinking of which I should use, or manifest. 

For instance, at Kostic's seminar, we had a really fun game where there the goal was to have the 'last person standing'. All participants--from various MA backgrounds, would get on the mat, and try to throw, trip, or wrestle everyone else until only one person remained. At about three quarters way into the game, where most of the participants were already out of the mat, I was just darting between the remaining survivors, as I could not really throw these skilled participants. At one point whilst I was tied up with someone, Kostic loudly declared that participants should be ganging up on each other! Before I knew it, two more people grabbed a hold of me, and tried to throw me off. It must have been a funny sight because there was one person grabbing my arms in front of me, another tugging on my back, and one more pulling on my leg, whilst I was hopping around on one leg! This actually went on for a while until one of my attackers gave me a big swing, and threw the three of us to the ground. To be honest, I did not not even know I had three people on me, as I was just simply focusing on maintaining my balance. I was surprised when people were laughing and applauding when I finally got thrown off. More importantly, I had no idea what I did to keep my balance in such an awkward position for that amount of time. Nonetheless, clearly something 'interesting' happened then. Was it Systema? Was it Aikido? Was it 'aiki/IP'? I don't know. And although not as dramatically illustrated, I found similar revelations when I attended Akuzawa's seminar the following week. Whilst I was groping around the dark with various drills that appeared foreign to me, something from my previous trainings would intermittently click in--and again, interesting things happened, without my conscious awareness.

Seng-Yew with Aunkai Instructor Watanabe Manabu
Whilst reflecting at the time, I came up with a provisional thesis that Systema is easier to learn and use, at a moderate-to-high level of competency, in a relatively short period of time. I suspect that if someone with a decent baseline were to put in a solid 2-5 years in Systema training, they would probably be able to defend themselves under most general circumstances. When it came to 'aiki/IP' however, I propose that it would take a very long time, possibly in range of 5-10+ years, to develop and build, and probably even longer still to use in a practical setting. However, I feel that if someone wanted to achieve a supreme level of competency, it would almost be inevitable that they needed to do some form 'aiki/IP' training--under whichever name/style. 

As for me, I'll keep going where the road takes me, and enjoy my training in whatever shape or form it comes. Whilst tricky to balance at times, every moment on this journey is too precious to fuss over arbitrarily drawn lines.

Seng-Yew is based in Melbourne, AU, where he strives to satiate all his loves. You can follow his sporadic ramblings at www.osaya.org, or better yet, get together and play if you are in town.

Frankfurt, City of Philosophers - 17 Feb 2015

Ever since I moved to New Zealand I have been visiting friends and family back home in Frankfurt and based from there in other places in Europe about once every year. Time in Frankfurt is special in more ways than one. The city of Frankfurt is largely known and overshadowed by two things (other than its murky weather) - banking and its airport - often to an extent that makes it very difficult to see any of its other facets. Nonetheless it undoubtedly has these facets. 

For me personally, it was particularly one facet that has always stood out and one that I always return to when I come here, visiting certain places, traces and memories. To be precise, for me Frankfurt has always been most importantly a city of philosophers. It is the city in which I read my first philosophical books - Erich Fromm's Having and Being and The Art of Loving, and which so strongly  sparked my enduring interest in all things philosophy, psychoanalysis, Aikido and Zen. Learning about Erich Fromm it was always somehow special to me that he was originally from Frankfurt and had lived and worked here for a significant amount of time. 

Then there was the house in which my grandparents lived for a long time and in which coincidentally Max Horkheimer also lived for a long time, only two houses away from where I lived myself. 

Horkheimer and Fromm of course were both members of the Frankfurt School that was also home to so many more influential philosophers over the years, including Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin, and Habermas in later years and that still has its base in the Institut für Sozialforschung, again not far from where I used to live in my childhood. 

Like houses and squares, street names also frequently remind me of a connection to very deep thought that runs through this city. 

Continuing this walk through particularly Frankfurt's Westend, next up is the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe Universität of Frankfurt am Main with its impressive new campus, on which one can get lost in a day of exploration.


The hallways of the main building also provide one with the rare joy of travelling from floor to floor in beautifully restored paternoster elevators, which via their age always gave me a sense of connection to all those philosophers that this city has brought forth or hosted for a few years.

Take the paternoster to the second floor and you find yourself at the university's Institute for Philosophy in the rooms of which I also heard of the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas that continues to haunt me until today.

A little further down the hall one enters the library tract and still on the second floor particularly the philosophy library which again has always been a special place for me. It is an interesting feeling to sit and write from here again, the view to the city often as grey as ever...

Further exploration of the university also allows one to find the office of the current professor holding the Martin-Buber-professorship in succession of Martin Buber who himself used to work and teach at the university. Remembering Martin Buber of course immediately reminds one of his friend and colleague Franz Rosenzweig, author of The Star of Redemption and The New Thinking, who also lived, worked and died in Frankfurt.

There are many more philosophers that have a connection to this city, Goethe himself amongst them. Of course, I have not mentioned the Budo Dojos, Zendo's, physiotherapy clinics and countless other little places in which philosophy is studied and practiced inasmuch, nor the restaurants, bars and clubs in which it is passionately debated. It is a strange city somehow, but one can find deep thought, a real yearning to change the earthly situation for the better and just good company here indeed. Importantly, the places, traces and memories that one finds here create a link between the thoughts of these philosophers, to their lives and ones own that, if tended to ever so little, is inseparable even across great distance in space and time. This undercurrent runs deep through the city and it is this Frankfurt that I can recommend to those who ever have the chance to visit. 

Announcing the Fudoshin Aikido NZ Tour 2015 with Philippe Orban & guests - 19 Jan 2015

We are very happy to invite you to our next and very special seminar series at the end of this year! Orban Sensei is already well known and highly regarded in NZ Aikido & Budo circles and will be returning to share more of his skills and experience with us. For the first time so far, about 10 practitioners from Europe will be coming along for the entire tour, which will greatly add to our learning experience. This will be a great opportunity no doubt, so we look forward to training with you! 

Check out videos from our previous seminars with Orban Sensei here or directly on our youtube channel. Various Interviews with Orban Sensei are also available in previous blogposts and elsewhere on the web.

3/4 October 2015 at Jikishin Dojo Auckland
17/18 October 2015 at Otautahi Aikido Christchurch

Super early bird rate:              $140 (full payment by 30 April 2015)
Early bird rate:                        $160 (full payment by 30 July 2015)
Standard rate:                        $180
One day fee:                           $100

Auckland: Filip Marić
filipmaric (at) jikishin.co.nz
021 192 9993

Christchurch: Liam O'Donoghue
chchaikido (at) gmail.com
021 727 690

Registration is only complete after you have emailed either Filip or Liam and your full payment has been received! 

New Instructors, New Classes, New Year - Bring on 2015!

Ok, the last class is over and 2014 is actually coming to an end. At Jikishin Dojo Auckland 2014 has been a busy, crazy, eventful and intense year in so many ways and on so many levels, and for literally all of our members both in and outside of the dojo, with lots of simply enjoyable and as much rather challenging stuff. It was great to share all that with everyone, enjoy together and support each other to get through the various challenges, thus growing from both the joy and challenges equally. For all matters and activities relating to Jikishin Dojo Auckland specifically, I want to thank you all for your ongoing enthusiasm, interest and support in our regular training sessions, national and international seminars inside and outside of Auckland throughout this entire year!

All that said and in many ways as a result of it, 2015 is also already shaping up to be an equally exciting year. First off, this is thanks to Jikishin Dojo Auckland is gaining significant strength with Antonella Coppolino and Colin Jowett coming onboard as assistant instructors. Both Antonella and Colin come from different, strong Aikido backgrounds in their own right and have been practicing with me very regularly for a considerable amount of time. Their presence in the dojo is an invaluable asset at all times and I am both humbled and honoured to have them onboard in this new way. I truly cannot recommend training with them enough. You can read a little more about them here, but more importantly, come around and get on the mat with them whenever you can!

Amongst the many things that growing the instructors team makes possible is having new classes, so to begin with, I am very excited to announce that Jikishin Dojo Auckland will finally be starting its very first kids class with the beginning of Term 1 in 2015 every Monday from 4-4.5pm. We will post about that more closer to the time, but I can already promise that this will be a special opportunity for kids to benefit from Antonella's great personality, attitude and expertise in Budo. 

Also, as mentioned in the previous post, we are very excited to launch the Official Aunkai Study Group Auckland, with a regular class Thursdays from 8-9.15pm at Jikishin Dojo Auckland. This will be starting as of the first week of January, after recommencing regular training on 5 January 2015.

Beyond the expanded weekly schedule, the event schedule for next year is also already filling with what is promising to be much great learning across and beyond the various component parts of Jikishin Dojo Budo Kenshu. Some of these events are already uploaded here, so you can already block the dates, both in and outside of NZ. As always, we will continue to add and provide more information on all of them as we go along.

So with all that on the horizon, there is every reason to be excited about what is coming in the new year, but before then, have a great holiday, a reenergising break and we will see you all again very soon!

Bring on 2015!!