Saturday, 4 May 2013

'Breathe, relax and be in your center': Pictures, a video, and a review of our Seminar with Philippe Orban Sensei - Sunday 5 May 2013

Last weekend we commemorated the 44th year of O'Sensei Morihei Ueshiba's passing with a 4-day intensive seminar instructed by Philippe Orban Sensei, 6.Dan Aikido Aikikai. Philippe Orban Sensei flew into Auckland on Friday morning directly from Tokyo where he had spent the previous nine days training at the Shiseikan Dojo training Aikido and Kashima Shinryu Kenjutsu with Inaba Sensei. The first session, being Kenjutsu, took place at Helensville that evening and was as interesting and intense as we have come to expect from Philippe.

He got straight to the focus of the next four days within the warm up. Correct breathing, having a relaxed yet alive quality to your body and placing your consciousness at your centre at all times. His explanations and demonstrations of these principles were in depth presented initially through a series of warm up and breathing exercises and later incorporated into Kenjutsu.

The first two hour session seemed to fly by with everyone fully engaged and training at the highest levels of concentration and intensity. So the tone was set, it was on to Aikido in Glenfield for day two, and we knew that Philippe Orban was in New Zealand for his third seminar. 

The Saturday morning sunshine brought with it a good number of Aikido-ka and martial artists from other disciplines. As on day one the warm up set the scene. Philippe made it clear that the aim of our practice is to develop the unity of mind and body for daily life. Aikido was the medium through which we could train our consciousness and not our thinking to achieve unity.

The most important aspects of our training were relaxation, breathing, economy of movement and being/moving with centre. With these came the ability to respond naturally and quickly to attacks and to feel when the opportunities for Kaishi waza (counter attacks) presented themselves. The more we develop these feelings in the dojo through exercises and with aikido movement the easier it would be to have the same feeling in our daily lives. Therefore all our study of aikido was done without emphasis on basic lines and standard practice of attack and defence. This was highly appropriate due to the many different styles of aikido and martial arts practitioners present, and our goal was to practice with feeling.

Of course we did lots of technique particularly Ikkyo waza and Kokyu nage, but I will not write about technique as the training was principle based and technique and can be seen in the videos. The same message was always reinforced, “relax,” “breath in and out correctly in time with the flow of the technique” and “move your centre first then hips, the hands and feet move as an extension of the centre.” We were also advised to use our whole body with economy and not to move unnecessarily.

Saturday training was based more on grabs to the wrists and Sunday we moved on to punches to the body and, strikes to the head. There were many opportunities to do Jiyu waza in order to feel for possibilities without the normal constraints of the attacker defender set up. Everyone was able to achieve much success with this type of training regardless of level by focussing on the principles that Philippe constantly demonstrated to us. He told us that there was no difference in the way uke and tori felt, it was the same. So we relaxed, breathed and tried to remain centred in our ukemi. 

On the final day we were back in Helensville to further developed breathing, flexibility, suburi and Kenjutsu. The integration of all the principles practiced so rigorously over the previous three days allowed us to move on to the fourth series of the Kenjutsu kata. I believe that Philippe was pleased with our progress as a result of three consecutive years he has taught here, and our application of his teachings over that time. His parting thoughts were of how this kind of training developed the correct spirit of friendship between everyone present and he looked forward to coming back to continue our relationship. He has obviously taken a liking to New Zealand and its people to which we are very grateful.                

- Mark Allen -