Thursday, 17 April 2014

Philippe Orban in Christchurch - 2 videos and a seminar review by Liam O'Donoghue - 18 April 2014

A week on and I am still buzzing from the truly inspirational seminar offered to us by the wonderful French Aikido Sensei Philippe Orban.

I have been training Aikido for more than 30 years now and have been to dozens of seminars in NZ and overseas. Too often lately I have come away from major international seminars somehow feeling empty: disappointed that concepts haven’t been taught and thoughts shared. Technique only just doesn’t do it for me anymore. So, coming into this seminar I was ready for something more than just technique and looking around the dojo at the beaming faces on Saturday afternoon so were many others.

This was the first of hopefully many international seminars Otautahi Aikido will host in cooperation with Filip Marić (Jikishin dojo, Auckland). Filip arranges regular seminars with international sensei but until now they have only ever taken place in Auckland. We thought it was a great idea to bring them down to Christchurch to give the South Island Aikido community some more learning opportunities. We had a good turnout for a first seminar with around 20 people on the mat from 5 different Christchurch clubs plus Filip from Auckland.
If I had to give the seminar a theme it would be: The Essence of Aikido – beyond technique. The warm ups included many breathing exercises, always integrating body movement with the breath – normalising your Kokyu I would call it. Common technical concepts during warm up and training were, to: relax and stay present; breathe deeply; keep your structure; work in your centre being aware of the 3 axes; and Musubi – keep connection while maintaining your integrity. The goal (or maybe just the journey!) was to develop a sense of Unity: the Unity of self and the Unity of the whole framework of the technique with your partner – there is no duality, no intention. Among other things Sensei Orban also introduced me to exciting concepts around the timing of Kiai and how it relates to intention.

I enjoyed all aspects of this seminar; it was skilfully managed by a professional instructor. There were times when it was quite meditative, there was energetic training and there was a lot to process intellectually. The atmosphere in the dojo was excellent, members from all clubs attending brought a really positive attitude to the mat.

And I was inspired by the man as well as his message. He demonstrated a real depth of understanding and skill that I so admire – a stunningly proficient martial artist. He also showed that he is still growing and learning and taking risks - when he pulled out the Tabi (socks) for ½ a session after a discussion the night before. What fantastic messages for us all, especially us high grades. I really enjoyed my time with him in the days preceding the seminar and am excited about the prospect of more time together both in the dojo and out of it.

I have so many ‘take-outs’ from this seminar and whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is just plain wrong! First things first I am going to work on my breathing and structure.

Special thanks to Filip Marić for his energy, enthusiasm and great networking, to Otautahi Aikido members for being so supportive and to all those who came along to share this physically, intellectually and spiritually invigorating weekend. I look forward to many others.

Liam O’Donoghue, Otautahi Aikido, 18 April 2014.