15 januari 2012

My Kangeiko experience

By Arnoud Reinders

As the autumn storms roared outside, slides with Japanese winter scenes were randomly projected on the wall in the dimly lit dojo. So at least we got a glimpse of what a typical Dutch winter is supposed to look like. The door to the courtyard was open to allow fresh air to come in.

On Monday there were approximately ten participants. Francisca Sensei did not waste any time and put us to work immediately. We had to practice with imaginary points in space, A, B, C, etc. The idea is to move straight from one point to another, and thereby move yourself instead of uke (uke = attacker, master; nage = defender, student, applyer of the technique). Uke follows because he doesn’t want to let go and is willing to continue the attack.

This method of working with points originates from Tissier, in whose line we practice aikido. As several of the exercises with points that Francisca had us do, looked like well-known techniques such as ikkyo or shiho-nage, we were inclined to perform these techniques instead of the tasks. It shows again that it is difficult to put aside for a while what you have learned. 

She showed that working with points also helps to stay upright, in your center and not to drift about. A nice metaphor Francisca used is that the body can be compared to a cabinet with drawers sliding in and out, arms and legs. Probably you can compare hands and feet with drawers inside drawers :)

Wednesday we had to bring our sword. With about thirteen people on the mat care had to be taken, even with wooden swords. Francisca showed us a sword exercise to illustrate her point about using points in space. When uke raises his sword to give shomen, nage cuts from left to right in the horizontal plane (straight from point A to point B which nearly caused Erik's suit to be cut in half), followed by a direct shomen around the corner (point C).

Then we applied the same principles at the uchi-kaiten-nage technique. Get straight to a point diagonally above you, beside uke (point A). Then turn around your axis (beneath point A meanwhile remaining upright) and get into sumo position (point B is at your back foot). Finally, turn your hips to your front foot letting uke roll (point C is now before you). 

In this exercise we had to forget the things we learned in the uchi-kaiten-nage technique such as atemi when you step in and gently checking the neck of uke when you throw him. These things are meant to control uke, but here we get to a paradox in aikido we all have to cope with. By just controlling yourself,  you have maximum control over uke. Then we practiced a similar uchi-kaiten-nage but now handachi-waza (with uke standing and nage kneeling down) and some kote-gaeshis where we tried to apply the method with points (from A to B to C).
On Thursday several people who usually train in Robert's class showed up, so there were twice as many participants as at the beginning of the week. That morning we spent quite some time doing various exercises in couples to find a good balance and to learn to trust each other. Great to see two people of very different weights (I estimate E at 92 and F at 60 kg) lowering themselves to a kneeling position in perfect balance while holding each other by the wrist.

From Friday on Robert was in charge of the program. It is interesting to see that he has developed his own teaching style. Several times he demonstrated on his own – without uke - movements you need to perform in a certain technique (First so, then soo, then sooo and then soooo). Because of his greater fysical appearance you can see his arm and leg moves really good. 

Furthermore, he puts more emphasis on the warrior aspect of aikido by pointing out the hidden threats in a technique (here you can give a blow and there you can pull uke back or downwards). In my opinion Francisca stresses more the "ai" of aikido, the harmony between nage and uke. Often she asks us to do an exercise where uke has to feel and follow nage, sometimes even with closed eyes. 

OK, for now enough about that. Robert began his lessons with breathing exercises to gather strength and ended with similar ones to release the built-up power. We were asked to practice some pretty advanced techniques, such as sokumen and nikkyo with one nage and two ukes.

Sunday was led by Robert and Francisca together. For nearly half an hour we swirled around in couples doing ikkyo omote and ura where the initiative was taken over in turn. After turning quite a long time in one direction we became so dizzy that we really had to change direction. 

The challenge was to find a nice cadence without thinking, remaining on the same place, keeping an unbendable arm, retaining your sovereign vertical posture and guarding your ‘sacred space’. In short, we had a lot of things not to think about and to let happen automatically :).

Then a few techniques followed and finally there was the closure and the wish dolls and certificates were handed out. Make a wish for the coming year and colour in one eye of the doll. When your wish is fulfilled you can colour in the other eye.

On the certificates the image of Tengu was shown, a Japanese demon who made it a habit to call arrogant Japanese clerics to order by his fearsome appearance. Also Tengu seemed to have teached the noble art of sword fighting to a Japanese master. The slogan belonging to his image reads Ai Chi Ko Know meaning Love learning through crossing swords

Mathieu’s Japanese wife had made a  rice cake which Francisca had to break with a hammer according to the Japanese tradition. Unfortunately, the cake was not hard but elastic which almost caused the hammer to bounce back to to the sender. Probably one week was not enough for the cake to harden. 

However, it is the symbolism that counts of course and a Kan Geiko of one week is enough. Then we had a party. Many of us had made and brought so many delights that the announced coffee table could be called an understatement. After having wished each other the very best, we returned back home with the intention of making it a great aikido year.

3 opmerkingen:

  1. I am sorry having hurt Arnoud with my previous reaction. He is a good man and very fine towards women and I see no lack of respect from his side. He himself provides me with the word blind spot which is exactly to the point because I felt my martial side was unseen.
    Please read my blog about perception and the blind spot concerning women. You 'll understand that I didn't blame Arnoud at all. It is something we all, men and women are not aware off.
    Arnoud, we love you, Francisca