Kiryu Aikido Begins 10th Year of Practice

Kiryu Aikido celebrates 10th anniversary.

Kiryu Aikido celebrates 10th anniversary.

This year, 2014, marks Kiryu Aikido’s 10th year as a safe, strong, vibrant dojo.

To commemorate this milestone, we created special edition 10th anniversary hoodies and t-shirts. Here are just a few of our instructors and students wearing the new garments with pride for our Kiryu spirit and continued journey.

Doumo arigatou gozaimashita, Andrew Blevins Sensei, for your vision, generosity, and countless hours of sharing your amazing talent and passion for this martial art.

 

 

 

Intro to Aikido Workshop: February 22, 2014

Aikido Workshop posterLTRCIf you’re interested in learning more about Aikido, we welcome you to our free workshop. We will cover a bit about the history, ukemi (the art of protecting yourself), open hand and weapons techniques, and more. Saturday, Feb. 22, from 1:30-3:30 at the Kiryu Aikido dojo at Lone Tree Rec Center, near I-25 and Lincoln.

Another Training Milestone

Kiryu Aikido congratulates student Benjamin S. on his recent achievement of the training milestone of 250 hours.

Keep up the good work!

Thanksgiving Week Classes with Blevins Sensei Teaching, and Training Milestones

Kiryu Aikido, November 30, 2013Thanksgiving was last week, and we at Kiryu Aikido were immensely thankful: Andrew Blevins Sensei was in town for the holiday and taught Friday (a three-hour class!) and Saturday. There is never enough time with our great teacher, but we gleaned all we could in the short time we had on the mat with our Sensei.

At the end of classes both days, Blevins Sensei presented certificates of achievement for training milestone to students. “I want to recognize the long-term commitment to training,” he said. “We test twice a year, and that is important in its own way, but it’s the consistency and commitment to practice that are crucial to a student’s improvement.”

Here are the students recognized for attaining training milestones of 125, 250, 500, and 1,000 hours.

Cyrus B. – 125 hours
Greg J. – 125 hours
Bob L. – 250 hours
Charles G. – 250 hours
Les S. – 500 hours
Kara S. – 1,000 hours

“Each step is important as we work toward 10,000 hours,” said Blevins Sensei, “the hours of practice that some consider necessary to attain a level of mastery in any given endeavor.”

Blevins Sensei, thank you for teaching and spending time with all of us! It is such a joy to learn from you. We so appreciate your time and dedication, and for sharing your talent with us. We will continue to work hard and look forward to the next time we are able to practice together. Be well, Sensei!

absensei_ks

Thoughts and Perspectives Following an Aikido Test

On Saturday, 16 November 2013, Kiryu Aikido participated in the biannual Aikido testing in our dojo community, which includes Tanshinjuku and Doushinjuku dojos.

testinggroup16NOV13

Thanks to Kei and Mariquita Izawa Sensei and the students of Tanshinjuku for hosting the test and for your welcoming spirit, as always. Thanks also to the Kiryu students who came to offer their support for others testing in this important milestone.

We had one student testing: Cyrus Blevins for 5th kyu. He did a great job and represented the dojo well through his preparation and commitment, which resulted in confidence, strong techniques, and zanshin. These are things I believe are hallmarks of the special spirit of Kiryu Aikido.

shihonage

zanshin

Every test is an opportunity to see students’ progress and the results of the work they have put in leading up to the test. It’s heartening to witness the growth and increasing abilities that students can exhibit when they practice over a long period of time.

A few things came to mind during the test, and perhaps the biggest take-away is that the elements necessary to have a great test also apply off the mat.

These include:

  • focus
  • dedication
  • continued and open-minded learning
  • commitment for the long-term

Perhaps these can be summed up in one idea: how we practice is who we become.

During a test, we can only demonstrate what we have been practicing for weeks and months (and years). If we’ve been practicing diligently, and have accepted that true learning comes from a conscious decision to get of our comfort zone class after class, our test will exhibit the focus and spirit we’ve brought to every practice. If we’ve been just going through the motions, that will be reflected in our tests.

Neither is good or bad, either is a choice, but it’s undeniable that we are what we practice.

So as this test is wrapped up, and before we bow in to practice next week, it may be helpful to take an objective look at our own practice. What can we improve? What are our weaker spots and those that need more attention? What are our strengths that we can improve even more? How can we be better kohai? Better sempai? How can we get the most out of our precious time on the mat?

Kiryu Aikido is about strong technique, solid ukemi, and good martial spirit, and I appreciate the shared commitment we all have to these foundations of our practice. I believe also that the physical effort put forth on the mat can result in positive life traits that will take us far in whatever career we have. Focus, dedication, learning, commitment. After all, we are what we practice…and we get out of life what we put into it.

Omedetou gozaimashita (congratulations) to Cyrus-san and all the students who tested. Keep up the good work, and we’ll see you at the spring test.Izawasensei

Progress comes
To those who
Train and train;
Reliance on secret techniques
Will get you nowhere.
– O-Sensei, from “The Art of Peace”

Kiryu Aikido featured in 303Magazine.com

A reporter from 303Magazine.com recently contacted Kiryu Aikido about writing a story about the dojo.

It features the deep life changes that are possible through a student’s commitment to practice as long as there is the unshakeable support of a talented and dedicated Sensei, strong Sempai, and a healthy dojo.

Here is a link to the article, “Fighting Back with the Art of Peace,” by Elle Groves.

http://303magazine.com/2013/11/elletitude-fighting-back-art-peace/

Blevins Sensei’s Farewell Class at Kiryu Aikido, September 28, 2013

After almost 10 years of teaching nearly every Friday and Saturday class, on September 28th, I regrettably taught my last regular class at Kiryu Aikido in Colorado.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next week, I’ll be starting a new job in San Luis Obispo California, and looking forward to the opportunities and adventures ahead as my family and I begin a new chapter of life.

After the regular class ended, I wanted to spend a little time with each of my students individually. To commemorate this special day, I threw each of them in a farewell round of joyful jiyuwaza. Check out some of the photos at the end of this post, plus more photos and videos on Kiryu’s FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/kiryuaikido) and Google+ page (http://gplus.to/kiryuaikido).

I will continue to oversee the high-level decisions and management of Kiryu Aikido, which I created in 2003 as a place to practice safe, strong, serious Aikido based on traditional techniques, weapons, and a solid foundation of ukemi.

I’ve designated the day-to-day teaching, operations, and carrying forward of the Kiryu spirit to Les Steveson, Senior Instructor, and Kara Stewart, Instructor. Les-san has been my deshi since 1999, and Kara-san since 2006. I know they will do a great job in continuing our mission.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I will teach when I’m town visiting family or on business, and I look forward to seeing the dojo continue to grow and thrive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isogaba maware. 急がば回れ. When in a hurry, take the roundabout route.

 

by Kara L. Stewart
(This essay was written as a requirement for Nidan (second-degree black belt) test, November 2012.)

“You’re on a plateau,” said Blevins Sensei, as we stood outside the dojo before class one Friday night. “Yeah, it’s not a straight line and you’re making some progress because you’re a diligent student, but it’s still a plateau.”

He added, “You need to figure out how to move beyond where you are to get to your next level.”

This was not the answer I’d expected when I asked for my Sensei’s thoughts on how I could have more presence on the mat and bring my Aikido closer to his level. Even though I’ve only been practicing a fraction of the time he has, that is the goal I have: that my Aikido be as strong, clean, correct, and powerful as his. I want to carry on his lineage and share with others what he has shown me these past several years.

Plus, since I got a late start in my practice, I have this continual voice whispering that life is short and I don’t have a lot of time. I want to improve as quickly as I can because I may not have the luxury of decades of hard practice ahead of me. So every class, that’s my mindset—to do all I can to bring my Aikido to higher levels. That’s why I asked the question in the first place.

As I drove home after class that night, I examined my thoughts and feelings about what he’d shared with me. His answer had surprised me—or maybe it surprised my ego, which in turn surprised me; I thought I’d done a lot of ego polishing the past few years.

But honestly, I thought he’d acknowledge my hard work in every class and recognize my focus and intensity, and then give me concrete pointers on specific techniques and how to better use my lower center to my advantage.

But that isn’t what he said. Like all great teachers, he didn’t let me off the hook. Instead, he shone a light on reality and opened the door. It was decision time. It was up to me.

Was I going to listen, really listen, to what he’d just shared with me and choose the hard path—to consciously make changes and move out of my comfort zone (considering that my practice has never been comfortable) and continue up the mountain? Or would I choose the same path, accepting good enough as good enough, and be satisfied with getting the same results?

As I started thinking about how to move beyond this plateau, it occurred to me that plateaus are a symptom of a larger issue. There can be countless reasons for a plateau. Not training frequently enough, hard enough, or intensely enough are just a few reasons for plateaus, as well as taking a lazy or lackadaisical approach to training—such as just showing up and going through the motions, being content to drift toward improvement rather than work consciously toward it, or believing that one is proficient already and there’s nothing to improve.

The problem I was having, however, was reconciling the typical causes of plateaus with my perception of my practice. I rarely missed class, so it wasn’t lack of frequency. I left most every class with my gi drenched in sweat, so it wasn’t a lack of intensity. And I focused so hard most classes I felt my head would explode, so it wasn’t a lack of dedication.

So if I believed I wasn’t slacking off and felt I left it all on the mat, what on earth could I change? If I thought I was already doing all I could to consciously push myself toward improvement, what could I do differently?

I felt frustration rising inside me, although I knew that frustration had zero place in my practice and would only hinder progress. Still I wrestled with my perception of how I practiced and the seeming unfairness that doing everything I knew to bring a sharp uptick to my progress just wasn’t working…at least not as quickly as I wanted it to work.

Ok. Time to breathe.

I trust implicitly my Sensei’s advice and input, so I accepted the reality that I was on a plateau. I could see that there had been gradual upward progress because of the hours I spent on the mat, but it was still a plateau. I owned that. Now, what could I do to move beyond it?

After a few minutes of thought, I had my answer. I would do the only thing I knew how to do: practice even harder. While I thought I was at my highest limit of intensity, I knew there must be another layer of intensity I could access. There always is.

Through all my years as a student, from kindergarten through graduate school, studying hard was something I knew how to do. I knew how to push through the pain, how to suck it up and focus on the long-term goal, how not to give in to the agony of the moment. No surprise, then, that I brought this approach to my Aikido practice. It was my default, my go-to solution for most any challenge.

I asked my Sempai Les-san for help with my ukemi, because Aikidoka with the best ukemi have the best techniques, as Blevins Sensei has shown us. Les-san threw me in breakfalls after every class for months, increasing the difficulty of the throws over time.

And I focused even harder in class. I don’t think I smiled very much. After all, my practice was the most important thing to me, and I was going to do everything I could think of to gain another leap of improvement like I’d experienced before.

I saw some positive changes. My ukemi was improving and I felt my martial spirit was synching up on the outside with what I felt on the inside. But the harder and harder I pushed, the more I had to squelch the feeling of frustration that the resulting progress was not matching up with the level of effort I felt I was expending.

My ego consoled me by saying that of course progress now would be incremental instead of measured by feet or yards, and of course now progress would be smaller and take longer to see, but I knew this was just my ego making excuses to make me feel better.

For a few more months, I pushed. I made progress, but not enough to satisfy me. I pushed more.

Until one day, about six months later, I…simply…stopped…pushing. Like Forest Gump when he came to the end of his cross-country jog, it was simply time to stop running. Forest stopped, turned around, and walked off in the opposite direction. I thought that might be a good idea, too.

The day I stopped pushing, I realized something. My push for improvement meant that I was so busy mentally and so loud internally that I had little chance to hear the tips that Sensei was offering or to feel his technique through my ukemi when he was working with me. I recognized that while I thought I was listening with utmost intent, my mind was too loud to truly take it in.

I was also pushing in other areas of my life, juggling my full-time job with my freelance business and home-improvement projects. All this translated to little sleep and, now that I look back, chronic exhaustion.

It dawned on me that by continuing to push for improvement, I was forcing something that could not be forced. I was essentially the kid in the front row of class, shouting the wrong answer, louder and louder, over and over, with the belief that shouting would make it the right answer. Instead of quieting down, listening to the question, and giving a thoughtful response, I’d been living Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over in class and expecting a different outcome—and I hadn’t even noticed.

When I stopped pushing, I began listening to the voice that gently suggested that if shouting the wrong answer wasn’t making it correct, and if pushing wasn’t creating progress, then maybe something else might work better. Perhaps a completely different approach would have a better outcome. After all, as I’d seen, more of the same certainly wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be in my Aikido.

So I did my best to try an opposite approach. Instead of relying on my brain, I started listening to my body—feeling Aikido instead of thinking it. When I started staying in my body, things started to click. Letting go of pushing toward an outcome seemed to create space for changes to enter in.

They were small changes at first, but noticeable. The quieter I was mentally, the better I heard Sensei’s instruction and felt the nuances of his techniques. And the more rested I was, the quieter I could be.

During class, when my center went back up to my head and my brain engaged, I found that I’d miss things, forget things, or hear incorrectly. I challenged myself to stay as present as long as possible in each class, and continually let go of the default to try harder when something wasn’t going the way I perceived it should go.

By now, I’ve seen enough changes to know that this approach is working for me. It’s the route that will help me improve and allow my Aikido to go as far as it can. But it’s also a conscious (and more difficult) choice to stay present instead of defaulting back to a too-busy, too-loud mind. It’s something I’m now aware of all the time.

I also have learned that this tendency to push as a reaction to challenge was installed in me a very long time ago and I have to be on the lookout lest it reappear. During the next plateau, I’ll know that a different outcome will require a different approach, not shouting more of the same incorrect answer.

During this struggle, I shared with a friend my self-protective approach to life: to paddle hard to keep my boat upright in the rough seas of life. He had a different outlook, though, and I like his a lot better. Maybe you don’t have to paddle all the time, he suggested. Sometimes it’s OK to simply float down the river, working with the current and blending with where it’s taking you instead of constantly paddling against it. In short… not pushing.

So now before class, I take a few minutes and sit. I let go of the day, let go of expectations and outcomes, let go of what I learned in yesterday’s class. Then I bow in and do my best to stay present, stay quiet, stay centered, ready to listen and receive what Sensei is presenting. When my brain wants to kick in, I come back to center, again and again. When I stay in my body, I start seeing instead of looking and listening instead of hearing. I start paying attention—really paying attention—to the small details that result in the bigger picture coming into focus.

And of course, I still practice as hard as I can and my gi is still soaked at the end of most classes, but somehow letting go of the pushing has allowed space for more layers of learning. I also know that there are many miles to go on this journey, and I will never “get there,” but that’s part of the joy of practice and continuing to learn, layer by layer.

Thank you, Sensei, for helping me clear my cache so I could start seeing with fresh eyes and listening with an open mind, working with what presents itself right here, right now, on this tatami.

Arigatou gozaimasu, Blevins Sensei.

Arigatou gozaimasu, Blevins Sensei.

 

In Search of Harmonious Ferocity

Pat Hendricks Sensei and Stanley Pranin Sensei SeminarSeminar Group Picture
March 9-10, 2013, Las Vegas

In Search of Harmonious Ferocity

Kara L. Stewart

The concern that the martial spirit of Aikido is in danger of being lost in some modern-day interpretations of O-Sensei’s original intent and how to save it for future practitioners was the theme of this two-day seminar led by Pat Hendricks Sensei, 7th dan, from Aikido of San Leandro, and Stanley Pranin Sensei, 5th dan, author and creator of Aikido Journal, who also teaches in his dojo near Las Vegas.

Over the two days, about 30 students from several states gathered on the mat at the ParadiseRecreationCenter to explore several ideas: how can we be more effective in our Aikido, and what can we do to maintain and enhance the essential martial spirit of Aikido?

There were so many good tips and comments that it’s difficult to capture them all. I also believe that some were meant to be shared once at the seminar and then allowed to settle into each Aikidoka’s practice in whatever way makes the most sense for the individual.

That said, there were a few key points that I took home—and took to heart. It’s interesting how each seminar I attend is always good and there are always new things to consider and learn. However, for whatever reason (perhaps thanks to the seminar kami) these two days brought light to some of the very things I’ve been focusing on in my practice.

The Mark of a Great Teacher

Hendrick SenseiTo me, the hallmark of great teacher is, of course, how much they know, but it is also about how much they care and where their teaching is coming from: heart or ego. Hendricks Sensei is the world’s highest ranking woman in Aikido and her teaching is firm and demanding but compassionate. Pranin Sensei is a vast resource of knowledge about Aikido and his desire is to help others understand it better. Over many hours with students from all levels, both Senseis shared their gifts in a strong but humble way.

Harmonious Ferocity

As he was describing some of the things we are aiming for as Aikidoists, Pranin Sensei paused for a moment and then found these two words: harmonious ferocity. As serious Aikido practitioners of this MARTIAL art, our attacks must be committed and delivered with the full intent behind the strike or grab. Our techniques must spring from the intent behind the technique, whether it’s to pin, throw, or otherwise control our partner. Without this full-on and unwavering intent (ferocity), while blending with what our partner is offering (harmonious), it’s just movement, not Aikido.

Expression

Hendricks Sensei discussed the notion of expression in our Aikido, which first I understood as similar to zanshin—continued focus after a technique. She illustrated expression in a few more techniques and explained that it comes from energy and focus within the person that is then expressed outwardly. A martial artist with expression continues the focus and energy of one technique into the next, and it involves the body as a unified whole.

Good expression is congruent—it reflects what is on the inside, and it takes time to develop. As Hendricks Sensei said, Aikido is based on relatively simple movements, but they must be practiced thousands of times so they become part of us and we no longer think about executing them.

At the end of both days, she reminded us to “forget everything you did today. Your body will remember.”

Intent

As a key component of Harmonious Ferocity, our intent is crucial to developing good, strong Aikido. Strike with the intent to strike, and follow through with the strike. Do a technique with the full intent of what the technique is intended to do (pin, throw, control).

I was Uke a couple times for Pranin Sensei and I thought I was bringing the biggest martial spirit I could muster. The actual outcome? Pranin SenseiNot enough intent or intensity. He helped me bring so much more to my intent and ferocity so my martial spirit mirrors on the outside what I feel on the inside.

Hendricks Sensei also told us, “Don’t be square.” When we’re attacking, don’t let our shoulders and hips be square to our partner, but rather turn our body so we are “narrower.” This is the true meaning of the word “hanmi”—half body—and it prevents our partner from reading our intent.

Don’t give up if a technique doesn’t seem to be working. Keep the intent and the intensity. Don’t muscle it or force it, but keep movement and flow and feel for an opening.

Dead Zones and Power Zones

Pranin Sensei demonstrated the dead zone (the areas to the sides of Uke’s outstretched arms where he can no longer see or reach Nage) and the power zone (directly in front of Uke where he has ample ability to see and reach Nage).

In all our techniques, we need to stay out of Uke’s power zone or get to the dead zone. Irimi Nage is a great example of getting to the dead zone. If we have to be in the power zone, limit the time there and get to a safer place quickly.

Balance

At the end of the first day, Pranin Sensei had time for three students to ask a specific question of a technique they were having trouble with. I asked about the Ura variation of Ikkyo or Sankyo, as I feel I often don’t have leverage because Uke is taller than me. In my case and the two other students who asked a question, our techniques weren’t working because in different ways, we had not taken Uke’s balance.

So somehow, find a way to break Uke’s balance and break his structure. One way is to use “hiccups” or variations in the flow or application of the technique to create openings. Another very important way to take balance is atemi—giving Uke something to think about and disrupting his focus. Kiai is highly effective as atemi. Hendricks Sensei and Pranin Sensei encouraged us to use kiai much more, with great intent.

While we want to break Uke’s structure, as Nage we want to keep our structure intact. We can tend to move body parts independently instead of as a unified structure. Our entire body, not just our arms or hands, needs to do the technique. As Blevins Sensei says, “Ki ken tai ichi.” Spirit/sword/body as one. That is the unified structure we want to bring to our techniques.

For example, when pinning in Shomen Uchi Ikkyo, bring Uke’s arm to the mat with our body as a unified structure. Pin using the weight from our center and go to the mat as a connected unit, not pushing down on Uke’s arm, going to our knees, then pinning. Stay connected to ourselves.

Martial Relaxation

Hendricks Sensei shared that perhaps the biggest piece of advice she can offer based on her years of training is to relax. Stiff, tight muscles or forcing a technique do not work and do not allow Aikido to happen. Our goal is martial relaxation…that state of an energy-filled yet relaxed (but not limp) body that can move any direction and direct Uke’s movement as well.

When we are relaxed, we have so much more power and effectiveness. I saw this when I finally let go of the tension in my shoulders. Pranin Sensei said also to realize how much movement we have at our disposal—hips, elbows, arms, shoulders, wrists, etc. Even tiny movements can make huge differences in effectiveness. Aikido is about movement in three dimensions, so take advantage of that, and keep moving.

Both teachers emphasized martial relaxation repeatedly during the two days—it is crucial to achieving better Aikido.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMartial Readiness

As martial artists, we ideally are training to be aware of each situation and be ready to change course depending on what is offered (on and off the mat). As Pranin Sensei shared, each technique is fresh, new, and different. Even if we’ve just done a technique several times, never assume that the next technique will be the same.

This applies equally well to Uke and Nage. Uke needs to go with what is being offered and not assume to know what technique is coming. Nage needs to be able to change things in a second to adjust to the situation.

By the same token, the newness inherent in each technique can improve our Aikido if we take each as an opportunity to improve upon the last one rather than going through the motions of a technique, over and over, merely repeating a pattern.

Also, always keep in mind the element of surprise. We can use this to unbalance Uke with atemi or by changing the technique. We can also keep our practices safer by working with what is actually presented, not what we expect to happen. For instance, if Uke responds in a way that’s “not expected” based on the assumed technique but the partner continues with the technique the way it’s “supposed” to happen, injuries can occur.

Taking it Back to Practice

Me and Hendrick Sensei

 

The seminar was a great opportunity to add a bit more to my ongoing learning and continual appreciation of the very sound idea

s that Blevins Sensei teaches—essentially looking at our Aikido from a different angle of the same

perspective. It’s heartening to know that we are part of a larger community that shares the same spirit and desire to keep Aikido based in its strong martial roots, with knowledge passed on from great teachers.

My sincerest thanks to Hendricks Sensei and Pranin Sensei for sharing their time, their hearts, and their passion with us, and to the new Aikido friends who practiced with me and shared these two great days.

Patricia Hendricks Sensei Seminar, May 2012

May 26-27, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Over Memorial Day weekend, a few of us from Kiryu Aikido headed to Santa Fe to take part in a two-day seminar led by Patricia Hendricks Sensei 7th dan.
Hosted by Jerome Buenviaje Sensei and his students at Takemusu Aikido New Mexico, the seminar drew nearly two dozen students from dojos in Colorado and New Mexico. Perhaps the timing of the holiday weekend prevented more attendees, which was highly unfortunate, because this was a rare chance to train with Hendricks Sensei, whose strong, clean, powerful techniques underscore why she recently received her 7th Dan from Doshu at Hombu Dojo.

Over the four hours of practice each day, Hendricks Sensei shared her strong Iwama open hand and weapons techniques.
It’s very challenging to write about the technical specifics she taught, so this post will focus more on other aspects of the seminar. However, for each technique–whether open hand or weapons–she broke it down into pieces that were easier to apply and gave pointers to every student at some point over the weekend. Hendricks Sensei is demanding in wanting perfection and having high standards for quality Aikido, yet she is kind in her delivery and so willing to help.

She focused on a lot of basic techniques, and at one point she said that O-Sensei taught basics every class because they are so important. And just because a technique, like Tai No Henko or Morote Dori Kokyu Ho, is kihon (basic) doesn’t mean it is easy or that it doesn’t have many layers that take years to start to understand.
Part of the benefit of going to seminars, in my opinion, is to learn from another teacher and open our eyes and mind to how and what they are teaching. Brain fry is a natural result of doing one’s best to overcome ingrained habits and muscle memory to do the technique the way the teacher is showing it. It’s challenging, but that’s why we’re there–to learn and let go of what “we know.” Otherwise, why bother going to a seminar if we’re just going to practice the way we always practice?

We did about half open hand and half weapons, including techniques from Katate Dori, Ai Hanmi Katate Dori, Yokomen Uchi, Tsuki, and Ryote Dori, and weapons work with suburi, Kumi Jo, Kumi Tachi, and Ken Tai Jo. While we practice Iwama style weapons in our dojo, there are differences in kamae and suburi that make things fun (more challenges!).

Hendricks Sensei provided hugely valuable assistance with tailoring techniques for smaller people, and she also asked for questions, whether they were technique related or historical. After she answered each question, she thought of a way to have us practice that technique or idea. For example, the topic was avoiding injury, and she said that many students over the age of 70 train at Hombu every day, week after week, year after year. To illustrate this, she has us practice Kotegaeshi as if we were 70–flowing, moving, using our center. Another question was about the average class size at Hombu. Answer: crowded…between 40 and 100 students. So, we practiced one-mat techniques, using only one tatami for each Nage and Uke. You can get a lot of Aikido done in the space of one tatami!

Some additional food for thought from Hendricks Sensei:

** How to avoid injury, or to heal from injury, which seem more common the more you train and the more you progress: listen to your body. When it has certain areas that are prone to injury, what is it trying to tell you and why are you holding on to that pain? You can do a lot of work to consciously release that pain and let go of it. Hendricks Sensei said she had a lot of injuries in her early years of training but now physically feels better than she did back then. Why? Because she listens to her body and works with it and the lessons it is trying to teach her.
** Practice intensely in class…and then let it go. Forget what you learned in your head; your body will remember it.
** As soon as you tell yourself “I don’t get this technique,” you lose. Assume you will get it and do it well.
** Use the Four Elements in our training: Earth: ground yourself, solid, strength, will, commitment, intentWater: flow, movement, adjusting to what is presented Air: expansiveness, fill space
** See the situation from our partner’s perspective. Tai No Henko is a perfect illustration of this.
** Ground yourself, as Uke and as Nage. Sink into the technique. Kiai.

After the last session on Saturday, Buenviaje Sensei and his students invited everyone to a potluck at the dojo. The food was great and those who stayed had good conversations with new friends.
Many thanks to Hendricks Sensei for her gifted teaching and her generosity sharing her passion for Aikido with all of us, and to Jerome Buenviaje Sensei and his students at Takemusu Aikido New Mexico for their hospitality and welcoming spirit. We look forward to practicing with you all in the future!

Kara L. Stewart

←Older