Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Aikido – the first five years

Just under a week ago, I underwent my Shodan exam (see here) . For a while now I’ve been wanting to write a bit of my experiences, and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.

I started training in Aikido some five years ago. At the time I was also practicing kung-fu, and was looking for another type of martial arts. I remember stepping into the Dojo that first time, and for some reason the image that stuck with me is Chaim Noy Sensei, during warm up, warming the feet and ankles, going through toe by toe and warming them up. The attention to every body part, and care taken to properly attune oneself to training got to me. A few months later, I joined Seidokan Aikido, and within a couple of years I had left kung-fu in favor of having more time for Aikido.

Not long after I joined, Chaim invited the Dojo to his house, and we watched Aikido videos – starting with O’Sensei, and continuing through the years with Tohei Sensei, Kobayashi Sensei, and Robin Heifetz Sensei who established the Mt. Scopus Dojo where I train; Watching and discussing the development of Aikido through the years, and variations of technique style and teaching style. Discussions of technique style may be common in martial arts schools; but for me, discussing teaching styles is something I was very unused to. Years later, I can understand how this relates to a truly open system where teachers and students learn and develop together, an idea that I feel is revolutionary in martial arts where traditionally each school and teacher had been busy defending its reputation, rather than being open to continuously learning and developing. The idea of the student / the teacher / the Dojo / the system all growing together, is to me analogous to the idea of one-ness of Aikido, and also to the type of movement/body structure that is prevalent in Japanese martial arts, where the body moves as one rather than by tension between the body parts.

That year, Dan Kawakami Sensei held a seminar in Israel, at the Maa`le Hachamisha Dojo. Kawakami Sensei emphasized proper posture and concentration. In the following years I was fortunate enough to have been at seminars taught by Joe Crotti Sensei, Larry Wadahara Sensei, and this last year Doug Wedell Sensei. Each Sensei being with his unique style, for me these seminars feel progressively more meaningful, as I am able to grasp more of what is going on on the mat. At times training in Israel seems like a disadvantage, as Seidokan is headquarters in the US and Aikido in Japan; yet I realize how fortunate we are to have some of the best Aikido teachers fly over and share their knowledge and themselves with us – it is a great privilege, and every year we contemplate how to better integrate the lessons from the previous seminar into our everyday practice.

This year I was also able to attend the Summer Camp along with Chaim, which was a tremendous experience – on the mat, but just as much off the mat – meeting so many members of Seidokan whom I had never met, yet somehow we had something in common, far beyond technique or etiquette. Celebrating the 40th anniversory of AIA and the 30th of Seidokan, in the midst of the intensive training, was especially touching, though I realize the huge gap between myself, and the many present members who have been with AIA since the beginning. I was very glad to finally have met Michio Kobayashi and Mrs. Kobayashi, as well as Mark and Jenine Crepo and many other wonderful teachers and practitioners.

Looking back, I recall how confident I felt when I was starting out in Aikido, a result of lack of understanding of the art. For a while, with each rank came a new understanding of my faults and weaknesses. I feel that now it is replaced with a sense that the way is open – there are no limits to how much can be learned; If we can keep Docho-no-sei – calmness in action – on our journey, then there is no reason to wonder how much there is to go, but rather we can enjoy the Do – the way.