Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rolling with Makoto Aikido Singapore & the Gurkha Police - 17 July 2013

       Slightly jet lagged and still overwhelmed I am finding it hard to find the right words to summarise my last few days in Singapore. If I had to put it really briefly, I would probably be left with the following 6 words:

Great Training. Great Food. Outstanding People!

I really still can't believe what an awesome time I have had there thanks to Bernie Ho, Alison Wong and everyone else at each of the Makoto Aikido Dojos (Boon Tiong, Judo & Ghurka).. Everyone there was so incredibly friendly and welcoming to me and so enthusiastic and open about practicing Aikido that I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment that I've spent in Singapore in the last 4 days. I think I will simply leave it at that and let the pictures and video speak for themselves. What you cannot see in those, but what is truly the most amazing about this whole experience is having had the chance to meet and make friends with such a fantastic group of Aikidoka. Yet another wonderful new connection made.

Topic-wise the seminar aimed at a deeper look at ukemi and the role of uke (i.e. ukemi) as an aid for a richer and more challenging Aikido practice. For this purpose I suggested a (not completely accurate) working-definition or -separation of 4 phases of ukemi through which we then progressed step-by-step over the course of the 4 days:
1) before movement
2) semeru/kōgeki (the attacking phase)
3) musubi (the physical contact phase)
4) kaeshi waza (ukemi/roll & counter-technique)

For phase 1 we worked on the fundamentals of movement: breathing into the centre, relaxation & upright posture and attitude. These fundamentals, all of which we can never practice enough, served as the core of everything else that was to follow. For phase 2 we reviewed the spirit and intention of uke in general, as well as in the concrete cases of a shomen, gyaku hanmi katate dori, tsuki or ushiro attack. Following this, phase 3 was about the continuation of this spirit of uke throughout the whole encounter,  always on the fine line between never giving up and accepting defeat where necessary. This naturally led us to phase 4 for which we practiced relaxed rolls and falls both as a means to save ourselves, as well as our primary kaeshi waza (counter-technique), before looking into more creative and perception-based forms of counter-technique before falling, during falling and after falling.

Running out of time at this point, we then only briefly went back to normal technique training based on the same fundamental principles (phase 1) and with this refreshed feeling and understanding of the role of uke/ukemi. It is probably another beauty of this that this is neither easy nor it always seems as though there is not enough time to practice everything, so we have every reason to continue practicing together.

I have quoted parts of this before, but an important personal inspiration for all my current work is the following (somewhat edited) quote from my Zen-teacher L. Tenryu Tenbreul:

"No instant of our lives waits for the next. We cannot go back into the time before this breath, and we cannot rush ahead to the time of the next breath. The returning to this breath now, unexpectedly hints at the vastness of actual life. ... In giving our self fully to this present breath now, we can become 'empty self' ... a calm and stable mind, that is not attached to any object but simply rests in the natural flow of existence, that is in the pure situation of potential that is open in all directions. This situation of potential is our natural source, the clear water itself ... The 'empty self' is not just a vessel. … It is creative force that is in seamless connection with and reflected in its surrounding environment. Resting in itself, drawing from itself, it can become any form of existence" (Tenbreul, 2011, pp. 115-121).Infinite thanks to Bernie Ho Sensei & Alison Wong Sensei and all other instructors, assistant instructors and members of Makoto Aikido Singapore and the Singapore Police Force Aikido Gurkha Dojo! 

Until next time,