Having the opportunity to write and engage you all for the second time is an honour and privilege. I have had several serious injuries on my Aiki path which I have overcome, due mainly to my desire to become a centred Aikidoka, which then flows on to be a better husband, leader and friend to many. This Roban was composed during my recent trip to San Francisco to participate in the California Aikido Association Annual Camp in Occidental, California.
In my last Roban, I noted the way I centre myself by allowing the phone to ring three times before picking up the call. I would like to share further how Aikido has helped me remain calm during turbulent times.
I am a National Operations Manager providing services to two large New Zealand government agencies. Most of the operation runs day and night, and when something goes wrong, it is a firestorm of information requests and details of when sites will be back to business as usual.
During these stressful times of gathering information from the affected sites and relaying the information back to agencies, I set up a receptive/positive process in that I receive the client’s requests for updates and repair strategies fluidly. The receptive phase is set using taisabaki to set up the response to a Yokomen Uchi strike. Just as the strike commences an Irimi Tenkan movement sets up the ability to receive the strike in the right place and right time. The information gathering phase commences once I have set the client’s information timeframe expectations, extending the receptive phase to include both parties. As the strike or information phase continues the systems are joining as if you were defending with Shiho Nage from a Yokomen strike. I then brief the client with the correct information, in a concise, orderly manner, just as you would with Mawashi and Nage to positively conclude a defence from the Yokomen strike.
During this year’s camp, we discussed ‘Downtime’ as a concept of recovery. There is downtime as result of every action we take. When you chant an ‘R’ sound the room fills with sound, and as it ends, there is silence or downtime. Downtime is a valuable strategy or process for remaining healthy, for the lack of downtime will burn you out. I learnt first-hand about a month ago when I was sick for a week. I was working long hours and getting after hour work calls at night and weekends. I was left with very little time to relax and rest resulting in a simple cold getting much worse.
Downtime can be a very effective strategy if used correctly. For instance, while training in the dojo and you are slightly off your game and rolling is hurting a certain part of your body, you should excuse yourself from the training and take a rest. This downtime will ensure you will be able to finish your training safely. Your system will calm the spirit and return to the source and reestablish your Axis and Core. Downtime can be any period depending on your energy levels. Over time as you develop your trust in downtime, you will intuitively know much time you need.
In the previous paragraph I introduced a couple of concepts, which I would like to expand on:
‘Calm the spirit and return to the source.’ The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba was also known as O Sensei quoted as saying*:
“To practice Aikido properly, you must: Calm the spirit and return to the source. Cleanse the body and spirit by removing all malice, selfishness, and desire. Be ever-grateful for the gifts received from the universe, your family, Mother Nature and your fellow human beings.”
This statement would resonate well with Japanese dojo’s but is I suspect lost in western society, although I will acknowledge some of our community will respect and understand it. Beginners of our art may not grasp the concept; I generally help them form an understanding by describing the unpacking of thoughts and feelings from the day. For instance: forgetting the person who took your carpark or their driving caused you to brake hard and avoid a collision or the argument you had with your partner as you left the house.
I hope over time; this approach will ease Aikidoka into understanding when they need downtime to ensure their time in the dojo is productive and joyous.
‘Axis and Core’. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba was also known as O Sensei quoted as saying*: “A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
This concept was also a feature of the recent CAA camp. ‘Axis’ refers to your alignment which should remain as straight as possible when practising Aikido; this was made clear to me through training with Laurin Herr Sensei, I was practising a Tenchi Nage Omote throw on him. He asked me to stop half way through and pointed out I was leaning away slightly from my Uke. It was clear to me I lost almost all of my advantage as Nage. Once I corrected my axis, the Uke fell away with ease.
‘Core’ was described as base, centre, Hara where the axis joined. The base of the stance should be supportive, flexible, agile and aware of the surrounding. Once the Axis and the Core are aligned, then Aikido’s key concepts come together; Receptive/Positive, Form and Flow, Centre/Circle, and spiralling can happen between Nage and Uke, thus Creating a Beautiful World.
I would like to acknowledge the support and teachings of a great number of Sensei’s who have shaped my Aikidoko journey. It is in no particular order, so if you’re at the beginning or the end of the list, it is not a reflection of your impact, it is a list all of you who have made a difference.
Shihan Robert Nadeau, Henry Lynch Sensei, Danny MacIntyre Sensei, Matt Tebbs Sensei, Conrad Edwards Sensei, Lyn Meachen Sensei and Lachlan Wallach.
There is a special note of thanks to Lachlan who trusted me as Uke for more Saturdays than I can remember, sharpening up uke skills with the phrase “I don’t know if this will work.”
Domo arigato to all attending this grading to my ukes a big thank you.
Nidan roban, May 2018
* The Art of Peace, Morihei Ueshiba translated by John Stevens. Shambhala 1992