September ’98


 

The Seidokan Communicator
Aikido for a Modern Way of Life
 
 
 
 
 Kawakami Sensei Visits Northern Minnesota
by Frank Guldbrandsen
 

For the spring seminar this year in Duluth, we were fortunate to have Dan Kawakami Sensei come from Southern California.  Brad Bergeron and Frank Guldbrandsen had traveled to South Carolina a few months earlier when Kawakami Sensei was there for a seminar and both quickly realized that as slow learners they would need an opportunity to listen and observe a second time to what Kawakami Sensei had just taught.  So they invited Sensei to Duluth for another chance at learning.

The essence of the weekend training for the 25-30 students who attended was efficiency and effectiveness.  Kawakami Sensei taught that balance is the key ingredient in Aikido as it is in all of life for efficiency and effectiveness. The easiest way to attain balance is to learn to be in harmony.  One of the basic elements of harmony is posture aligned with gravity.  Another basic element of harmony is breath.  Most of the weekend seminar revolved around that simple but profound theme.
 
So often students see Aikido as throwing and rolling and rather spectacular movements.  Kawakami Sensei taught that Aikido is really involved in much more subtle, less visible nuances of movement than that.  Students were able to take some of the lessons of the mat to the Saturday night soiree at Bergeron Sensei's house on Lake Superior.  Posture and breath were practiced while enjoying snacks and beverages.  Kawakami Sensei was also able to experience the beauty and placidity of northern Minnesota in the spring.  For several previous years Kobayashi Sensei always held seminars in January, often in the midst of 20 below zero weather with snow storms approaching.  Kobayashi Sensei was convinced that weather in Duluth was only of that variety, but now Kawakami Sensei knows otherwise.

The seminar was voted a great success by all, even though one student was slightly injured taking ukemi on Sunday.  She quickly recovered, utilizing some intense sessions of aiki-ryoho, and we all look forward to Kawakami Sensei's early return to the Northland.

 
  


What Do You Do With Your Yin When The Attack Lacks Yang?
by Doug Wedell

The concepts of yin and yang (in and yo in Japanese) are ancient terms and reflect the principle of complementarity.  Yang is ascendant, active, strong, full, light, heavenward, whereas yin is descendant, passive, weak, empty, dark, earthbound.  These complementary  forces cannot exist without each other.  There is no up without a down, no strength without weakness, no light without darkness.  In applications to Aikido, we must remember that harmony is balance.  When the attacker attempts to strike you down, he is coming at you with yang.  We therefore meet the yang with yin, by stepping off the line and creating an empty space or void, which may be filled with his solid yang attack.  When the attacker maintains a strong yang force throughout the attack, the Aikido movement is minimal.  It is as if nage did nothing at all and uke simply fell.  However, no event is completely yin or yang.  Nage cannot be passively passive but rather should be actively passive.

The title of this article poses a question about what happens when the attacker withdraws his yang.  The answer depends in part on when this happens.  The most common case, especially among beginners, is to attack and then just before the throwing movement is executed, to withdraw the attack and focus on maintaining one’s balance and not falling.  This sometimes leads to a struggle between uke and nage, a wrestling match, or contest.  The key to remember in this situation is that if you (as nage) are in a safe position, you need do nothing.  Thus, if you have stepped aside and have a controlling technique ready to execute, but you feel the attack completely withdrawn so the uke is no longer throwing himself, you can simply leave things alone.  The object of Aikido is not to throw the opponent, but rather, it is to establish harmony.  The critical feature of this response is that you are off the line and in a safe place.  If uke decides to renew the attack, the controlling technique will work automatically and so balance is restored.

A different situation occurs when the attacker refuses to attack, but attempts to close distance until he finds an opening.  This is a much more difficult situation.  The attacker is stalking you.  If you do not respond, he will eventually place himself in a position of advantage, breaching maia or proper distance.  Clearly, this sophisticated attacker is using yin from the start.  The complementarity principle implies that we must respond with yang.  However, it is important that we do not simply attack the attacker and become the attacker ourselves.  This is a tricky line to walk.

It is instructive to note that the original version of shomenuchi ikkyo (as documented in books by Gozo Shioda Sensei and Morihiro Saito Sensei) has the nage striking shomenuchi at uke.  Uke blocks the attack and nage immediately turns it into ikkyo.  This is a yang-to-yin method of self defense and I believe it was developed mainly for the purpose of working with the attacker who may be stalking rather than charging.  Note that when executed correctly, the initial yang movement is there simply to bring out the yang in the attacker.  The attacker wishes to attack and so will meet force with force.  At this critical moment, nage switches to yin and executes the ikkyo movement.  We see a similar principle operating in the tenchi nage (heaven earth throw).  With the raised hand, we threaten with yang and focus the attacker’s mind on the potential yang of the situation.  We then lead the attacker off balance with the hand in the shade, the yin hand.

Returning to our stalking situation, we can see that we must meet yin with yang, but have yin in reserve so that we can quickly return to it once we have brought out the attacker’s yang.  How exactly can we do this?  One method would be the use of kiai (harmony shout).  The kiai is clearly a yang force and is likely to draw action from our attacker or at least disrupt the attack.  Other possibilities include forcing the situation by thrusting a hand forward or moving in strongly toward the attacker.  However, this is only done to draw out the attack so you can blend with it.  We must not attack the attacker.  This type of sophisticated attack is worthwhile studying at advanced levels; however, practice of beginning and intermediate students should focus primarily on situations where there is a clear and continuing attack so that we can illustrate the yin meeting yang aspect of Aikido training.
 


AIKIDO AND THE BOKKEN AND JO (pt. 1 of 3)
By Richard Harnack

 Swordmanship in Japan began mainly as a skilled fighting art to be used in battle.  The success of any given technique or "style" was ultimately determined in combat, either in battle melees or individual duels.  The early "schools" of swordmanship were most likely associated with a particular daimyo or geographic locations.  During the early Tokugawa period, Musashi's "Book of Five Rings," Yagyu's "Family Scroll," and, Takuan's "Sword of Taia" were written down.  The attitudes and values reflected in these helped to provide the samurai with a deeper philosophy of the sword.  Each of these traditions emphasized that there is more to "swordmanship" than techniques.  It was from these and others that much of the present understanding of the "sword" and ultimate purpose of the martial arts has been developed.

The sword (Bokken) and staff (Jo or Bo) have been part of Aikido since its inception.  Both of these "weapons" were viewed by O-Sensei as tools to aid the Aikidoka in developing their larger awareness of and connection to the Universe.  O-Sensei was certainly familiar with the writings mentioned above and drew upon them for inspiration.  Roderick Kobayashi, Sensei, in his short manual Aiki Kengi and Aiki Jogi, made it clear that the use of the Bokken and Jo in Aikido was to emphasize the underlying principle of Katsu Jinken (Sword to Let Live).

In its simplest terms, Katsujinken means that aikidoka train to preserve harmony and to use their art only in service to the greater good, not to hurt or destroy someone.  Thus, the Bokken and Jo become tools to promote harmony, not weapons of destruction.  This approach underlies all of the Ken and Jo Gi training.
From this perspective, training with the Bokken and Jo in Seidokan Aikido is conducted differently from other styles.  In Seidokan, we practice the Aiki Kengi and Jogi to learn how to move properly and extend ki beyond ourselves.  In the paired Bokken and Jo practice, the emphasis is on achieving harmony and closeness of timing, not engaging in a mock combat.

Initial training in the use of the Jo and Bokken involves learning proper hand and foot placement and overall posture.  Both the Bokken and Jo are held lightly with the little fingers, while your arms, shoulders, torso, hips, and legs are relaxed.  The Jo and Bokken are excellent tools to help you acquire a more unified body movement and posture.  This latter is because when you use your arms only to move either one, it is immediately obvious.  If your posture is not correct, your strikes, thrusts and drops will look and feel strained and awkward.  This awkwardness will disappear with proper practice.
The Bokken - Wooden Sword - is used to help the Aikidoka discover whether their movements in the empty handed arts follow the principles.  This is done through Suburi (repetitive cuts), the Kengi and Ken-Ken Awase.  Suburi helps you to perfect particular movements with the Bokken by learning control and relaxation.  The Kengi help you focus on particular sets of movements to improve your gracefulness and posture.  Ken-Ken Awase helps you to perfect your sense of distance and timing in relation to others.  Seek to practice all of your sword work from the spirit of true defense creating peace with each movement.
 The Jo - Wooden staff --  Where the Bokken is used to train how to move in response to cuts and slashes, the Jo is used to train the Aikidoka how to move with fluid ease.  The Jo has two ends and a middle which can be used.  Thus the emphasis in the Jogi is to develop a freedom of continuous movement from one point to another.  The Aikidoka move their body behind, around and through the Jo, making the Jo an extension of their body.  In Jo-Ken Awase, you learn how to apply the movements you trained in the Jogi to distance and timing in relation to a partner.

 In the next article, I will discuss the use of the Bokken and the Ken - Ken Awase in greater detail.  In the third article, the focus will be on the Jo.  Until then:

Let your sword train your spirit as well as your body.  Let your staff increase the flow of your spirit and body.  Let every cut of the sword cut through your illusions; let every thrust of the staff move you from within yourself toward the heart of the universe.
 
 

OPEN HOUSE AT NEW HEADQUARTERS DOJO
by Mark Prince
 

On Saturday, September 19th at 1p.m., the new Seidokan World Headquarters hosted its open house for the new opening of its dojo in "Eagle Rock," California!  It looked as though at least fifty people attended and it included taiko drumming demonstrations out in the front parking lot, a warm welcome by our Kancho Stewart Chan, where he also gave a talk on the four principles of the mind-body with a practice session involving the audience.  We were happy to watch the children's class demonstrate, followed by the adults where some of the sensei and students demonstrated empty hand techniques as well as waza against tanto, jo, and bokken.  Wadahara Sensei also demonstrated a couple of techniques against the pistol! (No it wasn't loaded... and neither was his attacker!)

Chan Sensei ended with a short history of Seidokan and listed most of our dojos located all over the world.  Quite an accomplishment!  He then introduced Mrs. Kobayashi and thanked her and her daughter Michiyo for their efforts in administration.  Sensei Chan than asked if there were any questions and one of the children asked "when do we get to eat?"  He gave a big smile and invited everyone to join in a large very nicely presented pot luck!  From a new student's view of only three months, I was made very welcome by everyone and hope our new world headquarters is very well received by all!  Domo Arigato.

New location:

Seidokan World Headquarters
c/o Aikido Institute of America
2615 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041
 


Technical Corner
Futari Ryotedori
Doug Wedell
 
 
Much of our Aikido practice is focused on the situation in which one person is attacking and we must blend with that attack.  However, O-Sensei taught that in Aikido we must practice as if we are defending ourselves against multiple attackers.  He also taught that when facing multiple attackers, we must move as if they were but one.  

Two ways in which we train with multiple attackers are randori and futari ryotedori (two persons holding both wrists). In randori, we move fluently through the attackers so that we essentially face one attacker at a time.  In futari ryotedori, however, we are held firmly by two attackers.  How then can we move as if they were but one?  
In most of his seminars at South Carolina, Kobayashi Sensei would spend some of the time working on this problem.  He would first teach us to reframe the problem so that it is not two attackers against the one nage, but rather, it is nage who can team up with the energy of the attackers. In this exercise, nage imagines one of the uke’s is on his side and so he can easily move the other uke toward him with a slight movement of his arm (generated from the one point).  To emphasize that it is really the ki that is being used, Sensei would have us use the energy from a person who was not actually holding, but merely touching our fingertip with his or her fingertip.  Indeed, we can gain help by just touching the gi or obi of the other person.  Somehow, we use that person’s ki to ground ourselves and more easily blend with the other attacker.   Thus, the each attacker is really helping us control the other. 

There are several basic techniques one can execute from futari ryotemochi.  All of these require that nage remain calm, maintain a strong center, blend with rather than fight against the attackers’ strength, and move fluidly.  In sayu kaeshi-ikkyo, it is important that nage continue to lead both attackers throughout the movement.  By turning away and dipping down, nage leads the first uke off balance.  After he reverses directions, the ikkyo movement on this first uke is executed at the same time nage is leading the second uke off balance.  In zenpo-nage, nage must drop his center to draw in both uke.  As they fall in toward nage, nage must shift his weight forward and lead them in the forward direction.  In Ohnami, nage must bring the attackers together as in the cresting of a wave and then let the wave wash over them, taking away their balance. 

I find that one of the most challenging of the furtari ryotedori movements is makikomi, which is pictured on this page.  One reason that this movement is so challenging is that there is simply no way to force it.  The technique requires that nage move fluidly in such a way as to get both attackers moving together around nage’s center.  Nage then drops his center and the attackers feel as though a trap door has opened up beneath them, and they simply fall down.  As with so many movements, we can think of makikomi as a puzzle or koan that Kobayashi Sensei has left us to work on in order to gain deeper insights into the Aikido movements.  
 

 


Recent Promotions

Terry Gaham, Shodan, Seidokan Aikido de Santa Fe, August 2, 1998

Congratulations!


Calendar of Upcoming Events

October 24, 1998:  The Seidokan Aikido Club of South Carolina will hold a one day Seminar on Jo and Bokken Training with Doug Wedell Sensei.  Location: Columbia, South Carolina.  No cost for Seidokan Members.  For more information, call Doug at (803) 777-4258 or (803) 781-9242.

November 6-8, 1998:  The Aikido Institute of MidAmerica will sponsor a workshop by Joe Crotty Sensei.  Location: Aikido Institute of MidAmerica, Maplewood, Missouri.  Costs: $45 full seminar, $20 single session, $30 Saturday. For more information, contact Richard Harnack (314) 647-0903; FAX (314) 644-2927.

November 13-15, 1998:  The Michigan Seiwa dojo will host a workshop featuring Ross Robertson Sensei.  Seminar will be held in Battle Creek Michigan.  Cost: will be $30 for the entire weekend, $20 for any part of the weekend. Additional sessions will be taught by Mr. James Thompson and Dr. Mark Crapo.  For further information contact Janean Crapo at 616-965-5500, 616-963-6699, or Fax 616-969-0424

November 27-28, 1998: Thanksgiving Workshop. Stewart Chan, Dan Kawakami, Joe Crotty, and Larry Wadahara will be instructors at this two day workshop held at the Headquarters dojo (Aikido Institute of America, 2615 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  90041).  Classes will be held Friday, November 27, 1-3:30 pm and 7-9:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 28,  10am-12:30 pm and 1:30-4 pm.   Cost:  Seidokan members $20 per session or $60 for all four sessions . Non-Seidokan members: $25 per session or $85 for all four sessions.  For further information call (323) 254-3372 or (562) 861-0043.

January 1999: AIA Beginning Year Activities.  The tentative date for New Year’s Misogi is Saturday, January 2, 1999 and for the New Year’s pot luck party is Saturday, January 9, 1999.

June 1999: Summer Camp 1999 in Hawaii.  Plans are being made for the next Aikido Summer Camp to be held for a 5-7 day period near the end of June in Hawaii. We should have the details by next Communicator.  Accommodations for individuals, couples and families will be available.  Thus, the camp can be part of a family vacation. Dr. Mark Crapo is organizing this camp (616-965-5500).
 


Aiki Poetry

Poppy

In the rarefied air of a high plateau
Along a thin and winding track.
At the mid-point between East and West,
Far beyond the carbon light and metallic noise of cities
A cool wind jostles the petals of an extravagant and careless flower.

It raises its one great signal-orange blossom above earth and stone;
Defying physics, it floats for me in the distance.
It shakes the dust from its disheveled skirts, now waves haughtily to me,
Now genuflects without self-consciousness to the vastness it is part of.

Supported - or tethered, by that impossibly slender stalk?
A stem that looks as if it too has wound its way up to find this flower
Floating in the sky, open to the sun,
Willfully turning in every breeze,
And I bow down to know it better.

A few fibrous roots and spiky leaves provide temporary sustenance,
But this transitory life is dedicated to pure joy.
Suspended between the richness of earth and beauty of heavens,
It blows full to the world, bares its purple heart and lives.

The stuff of dreams,
I reach and gently pull petals from the blossom,
Roll them between my fingertips, letting their fragrance envelop me.
Sweet, now sharp, the corners of my mouth moisten, nostrils flare.
I lift wet fingers to my lips and taste life, subtle and unique.
And suddenly I recall hearing of the aroma of such a flower,
Of its flavors and textures.
All, abstract and meaningless until I climbed the dusty path and sat
Humbled before the beauty of This flower.

Now, with one eye open, and a lingering taste upon my lips
I whisper to you...
You do not know My flower;
You will never know My flower.
But you can know Your flower,
In the rarefied air of a high plateau
Along a thin and winding track
At the mid-point between East and West.
Where a signal-orange blossom floats above earth and stone.

- Brad Bergeron,
 June 10, 1998


CALLIGRAPHY CORNER
 
 This issue we continue sharing the calligraphy lessons that Kobayashi Sensei conducted while visiting the at Seidokan Aikido of South Carolina for seminars.  The calligraphy and diagrams are from lectures by Kobayashi Sensei. This installment focuses on the character for “Do.” The term do is the same as the term tao found in Chinese.  The portion in the middle represents a person’s head, symbolizing the person himself, and the long curving line symbolizes a road or path.  Thus, do is translated as way of life or spiritual path toward enlightenment.

The first strokes are criss-crosses and a longer left to right stroke which might be thought of as the hat on the head of the person.  The head is then represented by a box like structure.  Begin with a vertical stroke down.  Then, back at the top of the vertical stroke, stroke to the right and down again.  Complete this part of the figure with three short strokes from left to right, filling and closing the box.
 
Finally, one completes the kanji with the “road.”  There is a very short stroke to the left of the figure, followed by the complicated 5-part stroke of the road.  Begin with a stroke to the right, then turn down to the left, down to the right, down to the left and finish with a  long flowing stroke to the right.  This must be one fluid motion without lifting the brush from the paper.  Combine this character with the first three lessons to write Aikido.

  Doug Wedell
 


SEIDOKAN AIKIDO VIDEO TAPES
Basic techniques in accordance
with Aikido principles

In this video series, the late Seidokan Kancho, Rod Kobayashi, shares his experience of over 35 years in the Way of Harmony With Nature. Each waza, or art, is not only clearly demonstrated before an actual class, but he offers an explanation as to why each movement was made.

 
BASIC ARTS

Part 1

Part 2  
DAN ARTS

Part 1

Part 2 Tapes were produced and directed by Dr Mark R. Crapo and Vince Soo.

Copyright and all rights reserved by:
Aikido Institute of America
Seidokan Aikido World Headquarters

Mailing address:
Seidokan Aikido World Headquarters
c/o Aikido Institute of America
2615 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 254-3372 (if no answer, call (562) 861-0043)
 

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EDITOR’S NOTE

The Seidokan Communicator is published quarterly. Please remember, your submissions make this newsletter possible. Send articles about your dojo, your instructor, a recent seminar, philosophical insights, technical descriptions, and other Aikido related materials to me so we can keep up communication in Seidokan Aikido. Send materials to Doug Wedell, 501 Doncaster Dr., Irmo, SC 29063. Email submissions are welcome at wedell@sc.edu. Deadline for next Communicator is December 15, 1998.
 


SEIDOKAN WEB SITE

Don’t forget to check out the Seidokan Web Site at : http://www.seidokan.org/
 
It features previous issues of the Communicator, a dojo directory, links to other Seidokan dojos, announcements about upcoming events, and much more.


Closing Words:
The Beauty of Aikido Practitioners
Feven Afewerki

Every day when I go to practice Aikido at Cal State Long Beach or AIA, I am always inspired by the instructors who teach Aikido.  They always seem to shower me with understanding, respect, compassion and a sense of humor.  One of the instructors that comes to mind when I think of the beauty of Aikido is Larry Wadahara.  Larry always seems to have the time to be a kid and play, to express his frustration and anger whenever he experiences it, to show and tell about things he has seen and done, and to help heal whenever someone gets injured.  I want to thank all the Aikido instructors who took the time to develop themselves and share with me the beauty of Aikido.
Where is my Key (KI)?
Have you seen my key?
Where is it?
Is it in the book?
Is it under the ground?
Who has it?