Sunday, April 9, 2017

On new shodans

We have seven new shodans in our dojo. Congrats!

Afterwards Sensei was giving away black belts like rings of power...
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone....

Monday, March 6, 2017

On joy of teaching aikido

For a long time I did not like teaching. I always thought my place is on the other side of this equation. But life (and Piotr) forced me to teach some, and not that I really disliked it, but rather did not find any joy in it.

Until recently.

You know - you are there in the middle of the mat and you call uke to show a technique... And he does not have the foggiest idea what you will do. You present one side or the other, you may call the attack. But he is blank. And this first time is the real deal. Second time he already knows the technique and he will play along his habits and preconceived ideas. But this first time... With good uke you can do the technique for real. This is the little spark of joy in the darkness of responsibility of a teacher.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Aikido Commandments

After almost a quarter of a century spent on tatami I decided to share some advice on what to do and what not to do in dojo. Observing these will make you progress faster and will let you avoid dead ends.

1. Do not quit
2. Always look at the feet
3. Always know where sensei and kamiza is
4. Elbows down
5. Try to do what is shown
6. Open chest
7. Heels together in suwari-waza
9. Do big motions rather than small
10. You are the owner of the responsibility that you do not get hit
11. Never let your sensei surprise you without your weapons
12. Danger may be real, but your fear is not - it is only your choice
13. Do not close your eyes when striking with weapons
14. Do not let your ego emotionally dead lock you with someone

Somme comments might be helpful

1. Do not quit
Pretty self explanatory. There are many people with amazing talent, most will quit. Same for mediocre people - most will quit as well. Make sure you are not one of them. The only difference between black belt and beginner is that the black belt did not quit.

2. Always look at the feet
This is what I always tell my students. Especially beginners. Whenever something is being presented - always look at the feet of the teacher. You will figure out the handwork later on, believe me. But if you do tenkan instead of irimi - no matter if you got the hand magic right - you screwed up. Observe the steps.

3. Always know where sensei and kamiza is
This is important. There are many legendary shihans who talk about zan-shin, mu-shin and similar esoteric subtleties. But how to apply this in everyday practice in dojo? I always try to know where kamiza is and where sensei is. You might be in middle of ushiro katate dori iriminage omote gedan, but always in the back of your mind keep this certain level of awareness. If you manage to keep this throughout the class - your zan-shin will grow. Two simple points of reference - kamiza and sensei. Easy-peasy.
Also - never sit with your back to kamiza. This costs push-ups in our dojo.

4. Elbows down
Difficult to convey the importance of this one. Just do.

5. Try to do what is shown
Especially on seminars. Sometimes teacher shows a different version of the technique and then you think 'Oh, in my dojo we do it differently'. And you stop looking at what is shown and already fall back into your old knowledge of the technique. No, wrong! Look at what is shown and try to do it as it is being taught. No need to show off you know it already. You can go back to your old ways when back in your dojo. But be here and now. Try to expand, experiment and see if you can do it the way the teacher shows.

6. Open chest
And keep shoulders down. Keep your head up and do not look into the eyes. Look through uke's throat.

7. Heels together in suwari-waza
Keep them like glued together. Do not drag your feet behind you. Be straight, erect and keep heels together. Sometimes I tie the feet of the students with obi in suwariwaza to teach this.

9. Do big motions rather than small
Extend, expand, own the space. Open chest and raise your forehead. Relax and flow.

10. You are the owner of the responsibility that you do not get hit
Yeah. Why did I hit you? Because you created opening for me. Because I could.

11. Never let your sensei surprise you without your weapons
Really. Is this so much to ask? Ties a bit with point 3 above. Always have your own weapons with you and know the fuck where you left it.

12. Danger may be real, but your fear is not - it is only your choice
Depends on the dojo, teacher and uke. But do not get cornered into fearing anything. This is training hall but sometimes raining hell. Go through it with your head high. And perhaps look at point 10 again. Could be you are doing something wrong?

13. Do not close your eyes when striking with weapons
I do that myself sometimes too, especially when going hard and for real. My recommendation? Work more with weapons with tough, strong studs for uke.

14. Do not let your ego emotionally dead lock you with someone
Sometimes this is positive, but most of the time this turns into pissing contest. Remeber your primary objective of being in dojo - it is to improve your skill, it is not to show off who has bigger bokken. So if you notice you tend to crush against this dude - try working with other people where you have less emotions and ego at play, where you have more space in your mind to finally understand footwork with yokomen-uchi.