Sunday, 15 June 2014

'Never blend with your partner' - a weekend will Bill Gleason Shihan - 15 June 2014

The weekend seminar with Bill Gleason Shihan from Shobu Dojo in Boston has finished a few hours ago and I am as happy as can be. As always, it was great to train with people I have met before and whom I haven't, meeting new parts of the NZ and AUS Aikido community. I'll refrain from giving a comprehensive synopsis of the weekend because firstly, I want to have time to process it all a little more, and secondly, much of the themes and exercises/ practices are all but easy to get my head, let alone my body around.

 What I can say though is that one of the big reasons why I am so happy is because all of the themes that Gleason Sensei presented and challenged us with, link into a common thread that is becoming more and more clear to me. It's almost unreal how much what Bill talked about and showed overlapped, sometimes even in the exact wording (over and beyond the similarity in how it feels), with the work of Philippe Orban Sensei who was here just two months ago, of Toby Threadgill Sensei, whom I have also had the pleasure of meeting and training with here in Auckland, of Jan Nevelius Shihan who has also visited us here before, and of Akuzawa Sensei, whose first ever visit to New Zealand in November this year I am already eagerly awaiting.

Amongst these topics were not to pushing, but pull on the feet, rolling the femurs in- and outward (what I believe might be using the adductors or Yin-muscles in Orban/Akuzawa-speak), ensuring that breathing is continuous and independent of movement, relaxing the arms and shoulders, and ahhh.. so many more I can't remember them all just now (but they will come to haunt me in the next few days and weeks for sure..).

One of them stood out for me particularly as I only recently felt it in my own body for the first time in a new and meaningful way on Orban Sensei's last visit here and have been trying to work with it in regular classes ever since. This feeling goes by many names, like for example being centred, or being connected, using the body as a unit, unity (Orban
Sensei's favourite term for it), being in the one point (Tohei's term for it), being balance (as opposed to being balanced), etc etc. The name really doesn't matter and as we all have our own preferred terminology, I think it is quite ok we use whatever suits. With what I can grasp at the moment, it feels to me like anchoring in the central point of the body (where the 3 basic rotational axis meet) and maintaining an equal distribution of force, weight, energy around it throughout movement. 

More importantly maybe, all movement should be generated here according to everything I think we are told in the traditional martial schools. There is tons more that happens from this point and that I'd rather not go into now for lack of clear experience and skill, but both Gleason and Orban Sensei talked about extending equally in all directions from this point and then gradually learning to extend more and more. Fundamentally, this is the work of connecting the body into a unit and I am really, really enjoying it and I'm excited about continuing to explore it. It's really vague, but it feels like I'm sitting in the midst of myself, a feeling I've been looking for for a very long time.

To link this to the catchy title, I've really liked when Gleason Sensei said that Aikido is not about blending with our partner/attacker (and I'm smiling again as I am writing this). Thinking back to some common Aikido sensibilities that I have also held for a very long time, this sounds almost outrageous, but Orban Sensei said precisely the same to me several times over the last few years and with the above feeling I think I am beginning to get at least a hint of what they are getting at. Elements of it seem to concern the impossibility of connecting to anything- or -one unless I am connected within prior to that, being the center of the movement, rather than being thrown around by the centrifugal forces that spiral out from it, and more. 

There's more exploring to be done, and I look forward to it.. 

Many thanks to everyone for sharing paths, 

P.S.: I should mention a special detail of interest - Gleason Sensei also studied and still continues to practice Kashima Shinryu Kenjutsu, the same style that we practice here at Jikishin Dojo, and it is an influence in his work. His main teacher, as he told me this weekend, was Noguchi Sensei, a fellow student of Inaba Sensei under whose guidance we practice within the International Shiseikan Budo Association.