by Steve Sharp
Reflections on our first Saturday Keiko of 2023.
I hope everyone in the Dojo was inspired by Richard's demonstration on Saturday.
This shows a high level of confidence based on many years of previous all round practice(with the right Sensei), and a concentrated current period of time focusing on a particular area chosen to demonstrate a specific skill set. Tori's Composure settles Uke into that Space which ultimately creates the control seen in Kihon and the Flow in Awasse and Ki no Nagare.
Everyone will have noticed Richards's power of Composure seen through the moments of Silence, Stillness and Steadfastness - created through an appropriate pause to collect himself without being rushed within himself or by others and the surrounding environment. You will have noticed Richard taking a few deep breaths to help calm ruffled energies of mind and body and collect with composure his spirit between each technique. This creates an unwavering Bokuto and a still point of concentration at the tip. This stillness at the tip of Tori’s Bokuto is transferred to Uke’s Bokuto (Via the Aiki Mirror), acting like an antenna which if Uke has sufficient sensitivity will feel and respond to.
The ability to remain composed during periods of stress is an important skill to hone for all Martial Artists.
In our Dojo we start our practice with Mokuso to allow a few moments to relinquish any past or future thought and remain in Silence and Stillness with Steadfast Spirit to collect mind body and breath to the power of the Open and Vital Present moment. This moment is the moment to act unfettered by the stale past and non-existent future and respond with openness and vitality to the flow of constant change. The Composure of Mokuso is our starting point to go from the Silence and Steadfastness in Stillness…
to Silence, Stillness and Steadfastness in movement during techniques.
We are so lucky to have a gifted Sensei in Aikiken and Aikijo as seen reflected in the demonstration by his students over many years. This shows as Sensei was pointing out on Saturday the importance of having the right Sensei to enable those skills to be honed and developed.
Weapons practice raises the stakes and hones a higher level of Concentration. There is a heightened sense of danger with weapons which helps create a more Vital Spirit. This is a circular and therefore an interdependent relationship and the vitality created through weapons training is then reflected in our open hand training and vice versa.
The Sword is Aikido…Aikido is the Sword…each is reflected in the other.
Concentration is both pin pointed and peripheral like a point surrounded by a circle. It should be both Focused, Collected, Settled within and Open, Alert and Expansive without.
When two swords meet the focus of concentration is honed at the tip but expands from there to take in the whole person and the surrounding environment. There is an interesting seemingly paradox here: Focused Attention produces Peripheral Vision, both of which support and enhance each other.
There is no doubt that Weapons training Focuses the Mind and Expands the Spirit. This was seen clearly during Richard and Zac’s demonstration.
Aikido. The Ai in Aikido means Harmony like a lid that fits perfectly with no Gaps!
There should be no Gaps (Suki), in our Weapons and Open hand practice in Aikido.
What does having no Gaps mean...
It means no openings or leakage in Body, Mind, Breath or Spirit during practice. Openings means not allowing a space to form in which Uke can take advantage during the total process of a technique in either Weapons or Open hand and Leakage refers to no loss from Tori's perspective of integrity of structure, irregular breathing, loss of concentration and low Spirit.
It takes experienced Aikidoka to truly harmonize during the full process of any given technique and often involves an intense period of synchronicity honed prior to any given demonstration.
This Synchronicity was self-evident during Richard’s demonstration. Connection (Musubi), is intensified and even more important during Weapons training particularly relative to safety and therefore Control is essential.
You have to have confidence honed through years of dedicated practice to be able to control both your Internal and External environment. To be able to control (oneself and others) you have to have developed enough concentration to maintain connection and remain constantly vigilant to the vital present during a constantly changing process within the various techniques of Aikido, Aikiken and Aikijo; (not forgetting Tanto).
This will need continuous integrity of one's own structure, the destruction of the others structure: Maintaining one’s own breath regulation and power. The disturbance of the others breath and power (through the destruction of structure).
Maintaining One’s Own Mental Concentration: Disturbing the Other's Mental Concentration (through disturbance of Body and Breath)
Maintaining Ones Own Spirit of Vitality (through all above mentioned): Disturbance of the Others Spirit of Vitality( through all above mentioned).
The qualities of Composure, Concentration, Connection and Control were all there to be seen during the specific Demonstration by Richard and Zac but more generally seen in the Open hand techniques performed by Richard and Layla.
Tori and Uke are One not Two... Both of equal importance.
As the saying goes…It takes Two to Tango...
As Sensei was saying on Saturday he couldn't practice his Art without the Dojo and the Dojo needs the Sensei.
The Wheel needs the Axle to keep revolving and evolving. The Axle needs the Wheel to be of use. The point and the Circle are interdependent.
Anyone who felt inspired by Saturday and isn't already picking up a Bokuto and Jo and eager to cut and thrust to the chase then now is the vital moment to join the Dojo’s Weapons classes.