The school has a very open approach to developing aiki as a personal expression, rather than seeking a unified look amongst the practitioners.
As such the seminar was quite different to many I had been to in that technique wasn't taught explicitly and the focus was less concerned with what was right and wrong feet and hands and just getting on with it exploring aiki. I get the sense that rather than being this way because there were a lot of seniors on the mat, that this is business as usual for the school - something confirmed by some of the seniors there.
The seminar began with stretching and exercises designed to develop the idea of drawing everything into ones centre and centre line which was to be the central focus of the seminar (at least to me any way). Draw uke into your centre with aiki and then rather than throw them just release them, releasing then looking something like a throw but without the effort involved. Sensei explained that when someone holds you they have you at one point on the compass, you have the freedom of the other 359degrees so why fight, just draw them in and release them to the open space. This was explored through the many combinations of handhold attacks. Later on we used shoto (short swords) to help get this sense of expansiveness beyond our hands. Sensei was generous in freely using many people as uke during demonstrations to enable us to get a good feeling of what he was doing. The role of uke in the school is to never give up but to continue to extended you physical energy to nage thus allowing them to explore aiki throw technique that may continue even after the pin to become another technique.
The Kenkyukai tradition occasionally comes into some criticism for the 'antics' of uke in no touch type throws and so it was good to experience some of these as uke for sensei to make up my own mind. It was a great delight to feel the solid technique of making contact and then feel it progress to higher level where ukemi was felt at a psychological level of intent. It was something to really dig and enjoy and also understand that its at times martial and at times seem more a tool for helping improve aikido through improving understanding through ukemi. Certainly the seminar was one of the few where I felt as nage that uke was actively engaged in providing an energetic attack, taking genuine ukemi without the clash of ego or resisting that is often a feature (particularly when you are the new boy in another school)
The dojo itself is something i have been keen to visit for a while now and is located on a small reserve and includes basic accommodation that would be nice to take up the offer of sometime. The mats were probably some of the hardest I have practiced on for a while and have helped me locate a few kinks in my ukemi and encouraged me to consider eating a bit more to relieve pressure points on the shoulder blades I discovered i had. The day was a good opportunity to meet some of the familiar aiki-ronin seen from around the traps as well as catch up with some I had not seen for quite a while from brisbane and the Sunshine coast.
Well its a whole lot of grist for the mill and plenty of stuff to work on in an already crammed Wednesday class, sigh… I suspect I will have to get another night of training in if I want to be able to digest the influx of teachings, work on them and integrate them…
here are some excellent Seminar Photos from Sue Reilly's Shugyo images
Blog 2010 >