My Way of Practice No. 44
Aikido Nomura Naomi
Just Aikido. Because of Aikido. For those who do not practice Aikido, Aikido would be “just Aikido”. However, for someone like me who encountered Aikido, and feel happy because of Aikido, appropriate to say “because of Aikido”
Koda Rohan, 20th century novelist and essayist, said about three theories of happiness in his “Doryoku-ron” (literal meaning, theory of effort making). One word he said was “Bunbuku” or splitting happiness. “Bunbuku” is a word that a person shares his/her happiness with others. I, as an owner of Aikido dojos, have mission to share happiness gained through Aikido with students with “Bunbuku” in mind. I was content that I could practice for myself when I was a student; however, now, I sincerely wish that students come to our dojo would enrich their lives through Aikido no matter how much they acquire.
Period of Aikido Club in College
I grew up in rural mountain area in Fukui prefecture (Minami Echizen Cho) and, perhaps as rebound, I dreamed of visiting foreign countries. I chose a college where I studied Russian language at Osaka Foreign Language College (current Foreign Language Department at Osaka University). I liked television animation series “Karate Fool” when I was a boy and wanted to become strong. However, I could not find any commutable Karate dojo in my rural town. Upon entering college, I did not choose Karate but Aikido that I knew little only by name.
I picked Aikido because it was the first club I visited based on my strategy to visit in alphabetical order in Japanese. I had great fun at the first visit, and signed up on the spot. Little did I imagine, a fluke start of Aikido, which eventually became my profession.
The Shihan was Kobayashi Hirokazu who studied directly under Ueshiba Morihei. He had beautiful posture and relaxed. I was thrown away while he maintained perfectly stable axes, and I was greatly moved inside as well. I felt conviction, “I want to be able to do Aikido just like this.”
In June 1984, for two months, I accompanied Kobayashi Shihan while he hosted training seminar tour in Europe. The seminars in Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy, were inspiring. Aikidoka, practitioners of Aikido, gathered from various spots in Europe to master genuine Aikido techniques. I was touched to see those practiced with dead concentration. I recognized profound quality of Aikido by training with them, and realized importance of grass-roots cross-country friendship through Aikido.
Training at the Honbu Dojo
After graduating college, I took a position in Tokyo, and started to practice at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo in Shinjuku, Tokyo. I made the most out of opportunities to participate in the morning classes with the second Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru, current Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru (at the time Dojo-cho), and Saturday classes by Sasaki Masando Shihan.
I particularly recall one vivid memory from the first morning class when I sat next to a middle-aged man. I never met a strong middle-aged man while I was in college, and expected a boring session initially. As soon as I took Uke role in Tai-no-tenkan, my balance was taken immediately away. I was pleasantly shocked and thought, “this is it!”
My technique never worked with him. He took falls out of pity a few times. My body flew in the air from his great swirling, when I was taking Uke, and was immobilized because of precise pinning from joint locks.
The person is now a Shihan at Aikido Wako Dojo in Saitama prefecture, and his name is Kawaji Masaharu Sensei. From the first practice, I always practiced with Kawaji Sensei in the morning practice and it continued while I practiced at the Honbu Dojo.
On Saturday classes, I always practiced with Suma Hiroshi Sensei (Osaka Aiki-juku Shihan). I am tremendously thankful to the two great senior students, Senpais, for training me for 10-year long practice at the Honbu Dojo.In case the Senpais were not around, I typically asked permission to practice with Uchi-deshis or someone known to be strong in the Honbu Dojo. Sasaki sensei used to tell us, “look for a good teacher for three years, rather than just train three years.” I was fortunate to be able to meet with Senpai and fellow students who really understand and strong, and stimulate each other.
The founder Ueshiba Morihei learned various classical Bujutsu. I was interested in one of such arts that he trained. It is swordsmanship, or Kenjutsu, called Shinkage-ryu. I became a student of Watanabe Tadashige Sensei of Marobashi-kai for 25 years. I still continue practicing the swordsmanship and firmly believe swords principle enhances understanding of Aikido.
Study in Russia
At age 27, between 1990 and 1991, I was sent to polish language at University of Moscow by my employer Kobe Seikosho. While I immersed myself in language learning, I became an instructor of Aikido at the University of Moscow and the 2nd Medical University of Moscow. It was early phase of Aikido development in Russia. We hardly saw blackbelts and instructorship was handed to me for this reason.
I was initially reluctant that I was not sufficient with a rank of San-dan, 3rd degree blackbelt, to teach students. I switched my mind to think this way. A Sensei written in Japanese Kanji in two characters. The first character was advance or prior. The second character shows live or being a student. The word Sensei, in my new definition, a student who is on the path ahead of other students. With rationalization, I determined to share and teach what I knew. I taught basic techniques learned from the Doshu and Dojo-cho, as little alteration as possible, and not to embarrass Japanese come before and after me, sincerely worked hard to teach and train. I always kept in mind to exemplify the fun and intriguing aspect of Aikido through physical representation. Time to time, for the difference in body mass or physical strength, I was stuck that my techniques did not work, but because of Aikido I really enjoyed the time studying abroad.
Founding Dojo at Fukui Prefecture
I returned to the rural hometown in Fukui in 1997. I was not sure about working for a large enterprise, and I wanted to raise my children surrounded by nature. I also wanted to be together with my aging mother and grandmother there.
Many advised me to look for a job and put Aikido secondly. I did not listen. I wanted to continue Aikido as soon as possible. I found “Ayukai” in a school gym at a local school between mountains. The first students were, my wife, a Kohai from College Aikido Club, my two girls and my son. The five of us started the dojo, which started grew by attracting local children contrary to expectation. In 2 years, student grew to 20 with adults and children nearby.
I also started my business in Echizen-shi and built a dojo with 80 tatami mats on the second floor of construction material warehouse that I rented. Many assumed that recruiting students would be difficult because the dojo is in a rural area of Fukui prefecture where sparsely populated.On the contrary, students had steadily joined. I became to have vindication, “if i relentlessly train with passion, if I continue to convey benefit of Aikido, people would gather because of the vibration.”
In 5 years after founding the dojo, student body grew 100 people. In our anniversary seminar of 10th year and 20th year, with special guest instructor Ueshiba Moriteru Doshu, we counted 150 people and 200 people respectively. At the 10th year, we built a new dojo of 84 tatami mat, where I incorporated my past experience of running dojos. At 15th year, I closed my business and focused my effort to become professional Aikido instructor.
Seminars in Russia
Since 2006, I visited Russia to conduct Aikido seminar in response to requests from Russia Waki-kai twice a year in summer and winter at a nearby city of Korolev from Moscow, or 300-kilometer away town of Ryazan. Aikido Dojo at Russia 2nd Medical University became. Russia Waki-kai and eventually opened many Aikido dojo many branch locations. Russia is very large and some attend our seminars from where they rode overnight train trip.
The seminars are perfect opportunities for me to try out what I have trained for the last 6 month. I share what I became aware from training and teaching, new techniques, improvements, and training methods with enjoyment. It is also mutually beneficial to those who train at Ayukai Dojo in Fukui to include what I attained through training with Russians with different physical size and thought processes.
Gratitude toward Aikido
I am forever thankful to Shihan who taught me excellent quality of Aikido, and those Senpais and fellow students who practiced with me. Because of them, I was able to focus on to become a professional in Aikido, and closed my business at the age of 50. My thanks also goes to my wife and family who sustained the dojo together.
Aikido lineage is progressing by incessant effort poured by Ueshiba Moriteru Doshu and Ueshima Mitsuteru Dojo-cho, as I can see Aikido established firm ground in and outside of the country and valued very positively. Because of their effort, we Aikidoka can recommend and render training services with confidence. I sincerely thank them.
My Practice Method
Aikido has no competition or championship games. Lack of win or lose game exercise, usual practice can slide to become just a choreographed dance movement. I would remind myself during instruction to refrain from the following — “Uke” person does not possess intent of aggression, just hold a hand customarily, and never strike forward or thrust punches. The Uke person should engage in grabs seriously with combat in mind, hit then thrust. A “Tori” person should direct the attack, or employ “Sabaki”, and apply techniques. The readers may think it is obvious, but Aikido students should always bare in mind in practice.
Here are a few other important things while I train:
* Feel your center line. Strengthen and stabilize it.
* Relax upper body. Place center of balance onto “Seika Tanden” or pit of stomach — (translator’s note — about three fingers width below navel and two fingers width inside, according to Wiki). Take clean posture either static or movement in mind, “Zanshin” posture at the end of technique, according to Sasaki Masando Shihan. You are tasked to apply Sabaki or Kuzushi as soon as you sense your opponents’ quality of force, strength/weakness, and direction of attacking force.
* Invite the opponent to attack you.
* Polish Han-mi, Tenkan, and Irimi. Position yourself where your best spot to apply technique.
* Chrish connection, or Musubi, with the practice partner, and sustain it until the end of a technique.
I would like to quote from Confucious, Shigan #9, and it says, “the teacher removed the four. No preconception. No coercion. No Fixation. No Ego.”
Those were perfect Aikido mindset! It would have been ugly Aikido if I do the opposite, “I-H-K-G”
Many Aikidoka, including me I confess with embarrassment. I am believing that I would reach the high plateau of Aikido attainment if I can remove those four. I pay much attention not to pick up those bad habits, and I would reach the free state of flexibility in Aikido.
“I” for Indulgence for selfish mind — I (pronounced “Yi”)
It is discouraged not to appreciate others, nor feel others, then apply technique only with own assumption. In a class, I occasionally see someone who came up with his/her interpretation of own techniques while taking “Uke” role. I could justify if the art was only for games of grappling.
Please remember Aikido is a martial art of “Wa” or harmony. Millisecond of encounter or physical contact, or bodily contact should enable you to catch Ma-ai, or distance, then apply techniques, at the best instance. Be an Uke or Nage, and sense others.
“H” for Hurrying and Forcing — Hitsu
When a Nage person is hurrying (“I have to do this way”) and forcing to do “Kuzushi” or apply techniques when he/she does not sense an Uke person’s direction and structure can be discovered naturally.
“K” for Kinks and Fixedness — Ko
A Nage person could end up clinging to his/her way of deploying techniques without picking up an Uke person’s condition.
“G” for Egotism, Egocentric and Egomaniac — Ga
Let’s picture a technique that you can read Nage’s proud feeling that he/she is superior than the other. Techniques in Aikido forms around the implementer’s who he/she is. You and I would be able to read various things, such as “I am strong (boasting skills)”, “I am an instructor”, “I am a long time practitioner”, “I learned from this famous Sensei or that Sensei”, “I am the favorite student of Sensei X”, etc. You and I will be able to read from their facial expression and technique rendering.
What I seek in practice is — No Indulgence, No Forcing, No Kinks, No Egotism.
Provide mold and pour kernel of ethos
The same principle applies to manners and budo techniques. I believe educating children requires special care and reasons will come to be understood later. The best way is to show good examples and let students mimic and learn through repetition. For adults, we will explain logic as they are accustomed to know the reason before doing anything, otherwise I found many adults could not take the first step. I must add the body does not always follow despite logical understanding. It still requires repetition to master desired movement.
Aware < Favor < Enjoy
A person who knows the truth is not equal to the person who loves it, and the person who loves it is not equal to the person who enjoys it.
Confucius, The Analects, Book VI, concerning certain disciples and other subjects
I can concur that there is no match for those who are enjoying. The state of delight is no comparison in efficiency and mental well being. I imagine my ideal state where Dojo full of students are all enriching their lives through enjoying Aikido. I, the instructor, would be the first and best example for them to facilitate enjoying Aikido.
Here is my last note.
I have been practicing Aikido for 38 years. As I look back while authoring this article, I have many thoughts that I should have done in different ways back then. The introspection highlighted my underdevelopment and imperfection.
I renew my vow to retain a beginner’s mind when I started Aikido, make ardent efforts to convey fun and enjoyment through practice as an instructor of Aikido.
My Training, Aikido, Nomura Naomi, Budo Journal Monthly, November 2019
Английский перевод Минора сан.