Monday, 14 April 2014

Philippe Orban Sensei in Auckland - a seminar review by Colin Jowett - 15 April 2014

Another year and another seminar in New Zealand for Phillipe Orban, but my first time in Phillipe’s company.  I have to say straight off the mark that I have been to about 4 seminars this year and to date, this has been the most enlightening.  Philippe seems to have a simple and subtle way of explaining, what at heart, are very complex ‘principles’ or ‘ideas’.  Maybe I just happened to be in the correct frame of mind to absorb what he had to say or maybe it was the right time to hear the right message but I am very glad this was a seminar I did not miss.

After a few seminars, you get used to certain ideas and key themes repeating themselves – not because the ideas are old and tired, but because they are some of the key ideas of true Budo – and they never change and they never get tired of being the centre of attention.  That said, Philippe has taken some of these key thoughts to another level entirely.

As he says himself, he spent the first 20 years of his Aikido life learning form after form and technique after technique, while in the last 16 years he has ditched those ideas in favour of a more UNIFIED approach to the whole martial art process.  It is this distillation of thought and continuous evolution that he brings to the mat, and his apparently boundless ability and activity cannot but confirm that he walks a path that is certainly worth exploring.

In two days, I do not recall a single technique being explained in any way that you would normally expect, yet, I can humbly say that I feel that my Aikido has improved by attempting to understand and feel what Philippe was explaining.  I honestly think that this has been a key turning point, a branch on the road, of my own Budo practice that will be a turning point I will look back on with fondness in the years to follow.

Like all seminars, there often key ideas that the Sensei expounds upon that may be different to other ideas you have heard elsewhere – and this was no exception.  Philippe challenges some of our preconceived ideas, some of what others might have told you, and some of what you may have tried, or habits you have acquired, over the years.  Challenge is always good.  If your ideas and practices are never truly challenged then how can you ever know if they can withstand the pressure of stress, and from where, in your heart, they truly arise? 

I found one of sensei’s ideas very thoughtful, and certainly one that we have all seen cause stress in the dojo.  We are all helpful people, we are a very supportive and friendly bunch us Aikidoka, and we have a tendency to try and ‘help’ other, especially more junior, Aikidoka with their techniques.  Philippe believes this should be avoided for two reasons. One – it is a dangerous avenue for the ego, and the ego has no place on the mat at any time and is in fact the barrier between proper unity of spirit and formlessness. Two – your comments can be disturbing to the other person’s progress – not helpful.  Not everyone on the path of Budo is moving along the path at the same time and everyone is learning their own lessons in their own way – we should all have the respect to understand this and acknowledge it.  By all means if someone is in danger of hurting themselves, or you – speak up.  There is no point risking injury to yourself or others when it can be avoided.  Likewise, consenting adults enquiring of each other’s practice can discuss everything in a mutually agreeable fashion.

Finally, an acknowledgement of the Great Spirit that can be found again at all Aikido seminars.  It was good to catch up with the usual, and not so usual, suspects.  It is good to see up and coming white belts and brown belts embracing the variety of teachers and ideas that we are fortunate to receive in this country, and also to meet with students from other martial Ways that are humble enough and interested enough to explore what our martial Way has to offer.
A big thank you, respectfully, to Philippe Orban for taking the time out of his life to travel the 000’s of Km’s from Leipzig to our little corner of the universe and not forgetting Filip Maric’s time and effort and boundless enthusiasm for the study of the martial Way in making all of this possible.

Hope to see you all again (and more new faces) next year!