Practice Theme – January 2012 – Uke Awareness

Following are instructor comments about the theme for the month—how uke, the partner who receives the neutralization in the encounter, needs to move. Some points are repeated. This will give you a sense of how important they are for Aikido practice. Aikido is a martial art; be aware that when attacking you attack with sincerity and awareness of your body. If you attack and are unaware of how you are moving, then you are not protecting yourself with your ukemi. Basic principles of hips down, hard attack, soft follow are all about awareness. Keep on being the attacker right through the technique, don't just give up at any point, face nage, protect yourself, keep alert. Staying connected is a big part of being aware as uke, especially through ukemi. Uke maximizes his/her own safety by following in and constantly entering. Be aware of where atemi can occur: protect yourself as uke and stay connected at the same time. Give a good attack. During the...
Read More

Remembrance

by Jennifer Cheney, 5th kyu An article about my father's wartime experiences appeared in the Remembrance Day issue of the Globe & Mail.  It was written by a distant cousin, Peter Cheney, who writes the ‘Globe Drive’ section. I'm very proud of my Dad, as are all of us in our family, but war is a terrible thing.  While he was so young and enjoyed the excitement and adventure of flying, accompanied by a crew of other young men with whom he had an incredible friendship, when the horror of fighting a real war set in with the bombing and eventual loss of three of his crew, he was devastated.  Although he survived, was praised for what he did, and has lived overall a good life since, he has also suffered greatly from the effects of that war. I find myself often thinking about his experiences while we practice Aikido, an art of peace,  a positive way of dealing with violence.  O-Sensei knew...
Read More

Practice Theme – December 2011 – Pins

In Aikido, attacks are neutralized by projections or pins. The most common pins are ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo. Ikkyo is the basic pin, often the first waza introduced to a beginner. The instructors chose to focus on pins this month. Why? The state of mind in a pin, as in all our Aikido practice, is vital. It is not a matter of manipulating, or “doing something” to another person, but rather, Aikido is to correct yourself. Pins are effective, not because they inflict pain, but because nage is moving correctly in response to uke. In a “real” situation, an attacker may not respond to pain because he or she is “high” either because of drugs or because of a mental condition. Posture is important in pins to assure nage is in control of his/her own body. There is a lot of detail to pay attention to—the position of nage’s hands on uke’s, especially in nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo. Pins reinforce the connection to cutting...
Read More

Music and Aikido – The Way of Harmony

by Nicolai Tarasov, 2nd kyu The musical process, as a human activity that unfolds in real-time, shares many similarities with sports and Aikido. Playing instruments, playing sports or practicing martial arts require years of training to build up technique, strength, coordination, endurance, speed, stamina and other abilities associated with physical performance. As well, a constant sharpening of nonphysical skills as concentration, awareness, and other aspects of mental and psychological training is required. But there are some basic differences between sports, martial arts and music. Ultimately, sports are about competition and a win: the objective, the goal and the source of excitement in sports. Contrary to that, nobody "wins" or "loses" in music. The enjoyment of music has completely a different nature than the thrill of defeating the opponent and being a champion. Of course, there are all kind of musical competitions, contests and auditions but all of them have nothing to do with what music is all about, with the essence of...
Read More

Reflections on Suwari Waza

by Paul Seto, 2nd kyu After the last class of the evening, everyone usually gathers at the door and we all leave together. On one particular evening towards the end of the month someone asked me the theme for next month’s practice to which I replied suwari waza. I heard a series of groans followed by talk of going on vacation next month or being happy they had to work late and would miss some classes. What is this suwari waza that elicited a negative reaction? Suwari waza is performed when both nage and uke are seated. The practice began during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) in Japan. As architecture evolved to suit the ruling warrior class, rooms became completely covered with tatami, and seiza and shikko became the norm in the presence of territorial lords called daimyo. The thinking at the time was that it would be harder to attack a daimyo from a seated position. Samurai employed by their daimyo were...
Read More

Hakama

by Ayumi Mito Hakama is probably best known as traditional piece of samurai clothing and as a part of keikogi or training uniform worn in Japanese martial arts such as Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo, and Aikido. Samurai had to wear a long hakama when visiting Shogun castle. This holds back the ability to walk or doing fast shikko (the knee-walking that we practice in Aikido). This helped preventing a surprise attack or assassination attempt. History of Hakama The history of hakama dates back to the third century. Some clay figures excavated from early Japanese gravesites (250AD - 538 AD), are wearing hakama. "Hakama" used to mean any type of baggy pair of pants and skirt-like bottom wear in Japanese.  The word appears in the Japanese creation myths described in Kojiki, the oldest surviving book in Japan (712 AD). The type of hakama used in Aikido appears much later in the 12th century when theBushi (warriors) started to rule the country.  The hakama originally worn bybushi/samurai was divided like trousers, tied at the...
Read More

Practice Theme – September 2011 – Hanmi Handachi

Every month, the dojo sets a theme for practice. Having a theme allows the instructors to unify their various teaching styles towards a single goal. Some months the theme is an abstract point, such as connection, or maai (distance to the opponent). For others, the theme is an actual technique, such as ikkyo (the “first” arm immobilization), or a type of attack, such as shomenuchi (overhead strike to front of head). Hanmi handachi is both a technique and an approach: nage sits on her knees, with feet underneath, much like in the seiza meditation posture, but resting on the toes, to allow for readiness of movement. When the attack comes, nage (the person who applies the technique) receives it and executes any of the standard defenses from that low position. At that point in the technique, unless we are doing it right, we often hear Fran Sensei, our head instructor, tell us: “Let them come to you!” You are expected to sit in your center, and take advantage of gravity. By attacking...
Read More

Footwork in Practice: Ashi-Sabaki

by Justin Baily, 4th kyu I believe footwork is a crucial area of development in Aikido training, not just for beginners like me, but for all practitioners. It is one of the first things a beginner should focus on, as it directly affects the basics of Aikido. If you do not have good ashi-sabaki (footwork) you will not have a good foundation for hanmi, mai-ai, and your timing will most likely be off. Overall, it will affect your execution of the techniques. Where you take your steps and how you place your feet is of great importance. For me, footwork has been slow going for two reasons. One, when I first started practicing Aikido it seemed there was a lot of focus on the hands. Te-sabaki (handwork) seemed to be directly involved with the execution of techniques, while ashi-sabaki seemed to play a lesser role. I stepped, shuffled and pivoted every once and a while, but largely it seemed that my legs...
Read More

Self Defense Story

by Sean Braune, 3rd kyu I left a party down by Guildwood Parkway in Scarborough at 3:00 am and was waiting for the bus. A van was driving up and down the street. It pulled down the side street just next to the bus stop. Two men, both wearing black bandanas pulled over their mouths, got out of the van. One was tall, thickly built and held a tire iron. The smaller one was unarmed as far as I could tell. They began walking towards me at the bus stop. O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido, is credited as saying: Face a single foe as if you are facing ten thousand enemies; face ten thousand enemies as a single foe. With this in the back of my mind, I decided to walk over towards the two of them and say "hello." Essentially, this method of engagement in Aikido is called irimi, leading an attack a split second before the attacker is even aware of wanting...
Read More

New Challenges

by Sheridan Torres, 6th kyu I started Aikido a few weeks back. When I first called the dojo to ask if I could get some information on the classes, I was just told to drop in and see for myself. To tell you the truth, I got excited and tried to get there as soon as I could. When I walked into the dojo, the air seemed clean and the space seemed bright. Now, it could have just been the lights and the ventilation, but all in all it seemed different somehow. As I watched the students practice Aikido looked like a slow martial art that would not be difficult to learn. But when I began to actually start practicing it, it changed my whole perspective. With each different move there would always be some kind of little adjustments that had to be made. It could be anything from posture, proper footing, movement or direction – there is always something to be...
Read More