Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #41
August 6, 2016
In This Issue:
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aficionado:
I hope July treated you well. Sultry August ~ with it's 100 degree days and 100% humidity is at hand. As the dog days of summer are officially at hand, I believe it fitting that the newsletter be released 15 days late.
Stay hydrated my friends.
So without further delay ~~~ Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido this month:
Before I began the study of aikido, I did not know anyone with a CWP (Concealed Weapons Permit), and as such it seemed a natural thing that we would provide instruction on “how” to disarm a person who has a gun pointed out you. I could never foresee a situation in which I would have a gun and someone would try to take it away from me.
Later, I began to realize that a lot of aikido students are also CWP holders as well.
Fast forward to last month, when a “suggested” YouTube video popped up in my email inbox. I usually delete all of these “suggestions” without a second glance, but the title of a particular video caught my eye. The title simply said, “Weapon Retention I” ~ and it had less than 400 views at the time.
The video was obviously shot in a dojo ~ and there was a bucket in the front left hand corner of the screen. Wondering more about the meaning of the prominent bucket than the video's title, I clicked to watch.
An Uke/ Nage scenario begins immediately in which uke tries to reach for nage's pistol. What follows is “Aiki-gun:” which is to say the incorporation of aikido principles centered around maintaining possession of a firearm. Now “all” of those unrealistic attacks “grips” and “attempted grips” ~ that we kid the other aikido styles about ~ suddenly have realistic application.
We have a police officer in our dojo, and she has a saying about the gun. “Don't draw it if you don't plan on using it.” I like that motto, but here we are presented with another “intermediate step” ~ that provides a “de-escalation” opportunity between the time the gun is drawn ~ and before the trigger is pulled. This de-escalation opportunity is extremely important in my mind ~ and I have it annotated to my “Must Master in 2016” list.
The video link is to the left:
Please watch it. While there is no “explanation” of technique throughout the entire video ~ even a beginner - intermediate aikido student will recognize most of the techniques used to maintain possession of the weapon without harming the attacker. I like it.
Dojo Hopping ~ Traveling Nihon Goshin Aikido Style
So, if you ever find yourself at the Car-Max Dealership off of Independence Blvd., in Charlotte, NC on a Monday or Thursday afternoon, you need to go by and see my friends at Charlotte Aikikai. I will vouch for their kind treatment.
It wasn't the kind of day I had anticipated, but I found myself in Charlotte deciding not to buy a Land Rover on the recommendation of the car salesman. During the test drive, the car registered a “Hood is Not Latched” error. We stopped the vehicle, opened the hood, and slammed it shut. Satisfied at a job well done, we got back into the car, only to see the same warning light pop on again. We repeated the process mentioned earlier, but with an even hardier slam of the hood. After the second attempt to close the hood the “Hood Open” light finally went out, but the “Trunk Open” warning light came on.
It was at this point that Sebastian, the car salesman, looked at me and said, “You do not want to buy this vehicle. This car has been having issues like this on every test drive we've gone one ~ and the mechanics can't seem to find the problem. That is why it is listed so far below Blue Book value.”
So, faced with the prospects of driving home without the car I had specifically driven to Charlotte to buy, I found myself in a quandary.
Quandary #1 ~ it was over 100 degrees outside, and my AC in the car I was planning to trade in towards the purchase of the Land Rover was not functioning. My return trip would be a HOT one.
Quandary #2 ~ By the time I arrived back home I would have missed the aikido class in Lexington.
Training time is rare for me these days as I seek to balance my family's ever growing schedule with my own schedule, and the classes I can make in Lexington seem shorter and shorter ~ so what to do?
I couldn't miss another opportunity to train. Might there be a venue in Charlotte? I brought my GI with me. A quick google search of “Charlotte Aikido” brings up 4 different and fantastic aikido dojos. Charlotte Aikikai was the closest ~ and I knew both instructors and several of the students from previous seminars I had attended. As providence would have it, a 2-hour aikido class was due begin in only 45 minutes, and a Hardee's Restaurant was in route. If I could survive without the A/C ~ I would be fine after all.
Things were going smoothly until I turned onto Rocky River Road. Hearing my phone chime, “Destination is on the right.” ~ I turned into a shopping center. 5 minutes passed as I drove all around the Food Lion, and an Auto Parts store ~ expecting to see an aikido dojo around the corner or in the shopping plaza somewhere ~ but no luck. It didn't matter how many times I circled, there was no aikido dojo present. I was frazzled. It was HOT, and I had nearly said a cuss word as I began thinking I may have gotten food poisoning at Hardees'. Truth be told, I'd given up. No new car. No aikido. No air conditioning. Potential Food Poisoning. My spirit was broken.
I figured I'd head home a loser on four fronts. As I was leaving the parking lot and preparing to turn left onto Rocky River Road to begin the journey home, my phone once again chimed, “Destination is on the right.” It was at this point that looked to my right and noted a small gravel driveway perhaps only 50 feet past the shopping center entrance my car was sitting in. It was here ~ I'd just turned too early.
Without thought or hesitation, my car changed trajectory, and I followed a lightly used gravel road that guided me beneath a lush canopy of verdant and lush trees. All the frustrations of the day melted away, and as I drove down this pathway, I thought, “This is what it feels like to go to an old school aikido dojo.” A feeling of peace grew as I traveled down the path which eventually spilled out into an open area where a white block building, sat in partial shade, looking impervious but welcoming against the last solid rays of sunset. My journey was complete.
Out of the not so hot Durango with training bag in hand, I entered , bowed toward the shomen, and saw three people I immediately recognized, Huff Sensei (Charlotte Aikikai's dojo-cho), Truong Sensei, and one of their students ~ Barbara.
I asked for permission to train ~ which was immediately granted. Food poisoning fears vanished ~ and I changed out quickly, and joined the class on the mat as Barb was working on some Over the Back (Koshinage) applications.
Soon everyone was in seiza, and I wondered what Truong Sensei had in mind for class that evening. Truth be told, at the last seminar I attended with him, I declared an aikido man crush on Truong Sensei ~ and followed (if not stalked) around the seminar the whole day. It is impossible to stand up when attacking that man.
The first attack was tskue to the abdomen. Nage was to execute an ever so slight blend to the outside and then rest his arm on uke's striking hand while stepping back. The tendency is to “push uke's arm down” but the simple weight of the arm ~ while keeping “weight underside” is enough to pull uke off his base as you step back. Subtle. Effortless. Nearly tai-chi like.... but a fast tai-chi with a partner. “Don't let your power extend beyond your elbows.” ~ was Truong Sensei's admonishment.
The lesson progressed well with a central theme that Nage connect with Uke's center and affect his balance before attempting any technique.
After an hour, of connection exercises like the one described above, there was a small break, and the next hour started off with randori. Heaven! The attack of the night was an attempted 2 hand lapel grab, and you just stepped back and pivoted your feet in a 180 degree turn (Tenkan 2 ~ think footwork to the 2 Hand Wheel Throw). The focus was never on the raising or lowering of the elbows ~ as much as it was the rotation of the hips and the turn. If the rotation was good, the elbows needn't be affected too much to perform the throw.
Soon it the randori became a fluid 5v1 ~ with emphasis on planning 2 to 3 movements in advance. On one occasion towards the end, I was feeling extremely comfortable and relaxed as nage. Uke's were lined up and passed by with clockwork precision. Shortly thereafter, I began to think about the technique I was performing ~ a few seconds later I was nearly pinned into the corner of the mat by all 5 attackers. There is a lesson there somewhere.....
Throughout both sessions, the intensity was as high as you wanted it to be. Numerous times, Truong Sensei reminded all of us that if nage moves slowly the attacks would come slowly~ so newer students were able to execute the same concepts as senior students ~ just at slower speeds. Likewise, if you wanted a “more” energetic experience, you could work faster as well.
Well, I love energetic experiences, and half way through the first of two hours, my gi jacket was soaking wet. I love their work rate.
The conditioning is all aikido related, so you're not doing work that is not related to the art. I found many insights in the corrections I received. Here is an example of one such correction: My whole life I've unwittingly walked with my head too far in front of my center. Soon to be 49 years old, Aikido is helping me break that habit. Still, Truong Sensei recognized this poor posture, and in suggesting a way I might improve my posture, he quipped, “Your feet are on the earth. Your head is being stretched toward heaven. Water is in the middle.” I made it my screen saver.
Now one of the best practices in the dojo is its family atmosphere. Every Thursday, they all head out to Outback Steak House after training. It was Thursday on the day I visited, so I unceremoniously invited myself ~ lol We had a blast talking about all kinds of things from rock climbing to gymnastics, parenting, tendonitis, etc. It was a 2 hour experience I would not trade.
By the time I got home, showered, and slid into bed, it was 1:15 m. My wife, who was originally facing me when I got into bed, woke up slightly, rolled over (turning her back to me), and mumbled as she was turning, “You and this aikido.” ~ and then was instantly back asleep. The following morning, not remembering the incident, She asked me what time I got home. Rather than answer the question, I made it a point if that she'd train aikido with me, she would already know what time I got home. lol
Reflections on my experience: For a solid week, I thought on how I might describe best describe the aikido style at Charlotte Aikikai.
I was originally leaning towards “Delicate,” but I was uncomfortable with the potential implication of that word. In my mind, I was using Delicate in a manner that did not suggest Weakness ~ but more in a way that stressed Peacefulness and the ability to Avoid the “Clash of Conflict” or the “Battle of Wills.” As someone who has had consistently chronic elbow sprains and shoulder injuries since I began my aikido training journey (from what were otherwise perfectly healthy joints), it is very pleasant to work with the guys at Charlotte Aikikai. When I train with Huff Sensei, Truong Sensei, Barbara, Stephen, and the rest, I never feel like I'm in danger, or have a risk of injury ~ but I was thrown convincingly well and with a great deal of regularity.
The following Saturday, I happened on Huff Sensei at another Charlotte Aikido dojo. We were preparing for an aikido demonstration at an upcoming Japanese Festival in Charlotte called “Bon Odori.” I told him about the article I wanted to write concerning my training experience in his dojo, and how I was planning to describe his style. I expressed concern about using the word “delicate” and the previously mentioned problems I had with it. He thought about it awhile, and he suggested “nuanced” as a better modifier ~ which I instantly liked better.
So it is a nuanced, weight underside, subtle, conflict avoiding aikido style at 2200 Rocky River Road in Charlotte, NC. When you turn onto the gravel road leading toward the dojo ~ you step out of the whatever you were concerned about earlier, and into a relaxed, stoic consciousness. It is a peaceful place and too much of a well kept secret.
The Monday, Thursday, and Saturday training sessions provide 6 hours of aikido instruction per week. Regardless of your previous aikido training ~ their ability to connect, suggest subtle weight shifts and imbalances in uke will add to your nagewaza abilities.
So the next time you find yourself in Charlotte ~ check these guys out. There website is charlotteaikikai.org (yes, they are a 501c-3 non for profit charity ~ so dues are tax deductible).
Next month, I will detail everything about the Bon Odori festival aikido demonstration I participated in. I have video of both Truong Sensei, and Barb laying me out in fine fashion.
Let's meet together on the mat, and soon!
Articles of Interest:
Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.
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This was not to be my car.
Quirky ~ Very Quirky
The driveway to Charlotte Aikikai ~~~ a literal pathway to peace ~~~
The training space at Charlotte Aikikai. Tiffen Mats over a wooden floor ~~~ A-Okay!
Three Laws of Movement
1. Pick up your feet & Rotate your hips
2. Opposite Motions
4. Uke Falls Down
Sensei Huff and me after a hard day’s training.