Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A New Artistic Experience, Martial

Kodaira Back Streets

    I promised to write soon, sorry it wasn't sooner. Again, sorry all for slacking on writing blog updates. The above photo is from along my walk to the university. I have begun walking through a neighborhood, opposed to the busy streets I was previously walking along. I really love how new and old are emphasized in the architecture of Japanese homes.

    I have been studying more, and participating in more cultural and social events (be shocked). Also, as mentioned, I started attending the Aiki Budo club at TGU. At first, with any new experience, I was a little nervous. My Japanese speaking ability is somewhat behind, and the club/class is taught completely in Japanese. Regardless, however, of any sort of inability on my part, it proved to be an incredibly friendly experience.

    Since that first day, I have attended 4 classes. The Aiki Budo club meets on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at times that (for the most part) do not interfere with my other studies. And, after each class meeting I've attended, I have been invited out after for dinner. This invite does not allow me to ever pay. And, when I asked why, I was informed it is the "Aiki Budo welcoming committee." They area truly wonderful group of individuals. A club comprised of about 12-14 highly committed members. It has me missing Kenosha Aikikai (my home Aikido Dojo for those who are unaware).

    The differences between Aiki Budo and the Aikido I have practice are subtle but are numerous enough to be challenging as a learning experience. The vocabulary is different, although I have found some fun correlations, which in a small way aid in my Japanese language studies. The name of techniques in Aikido are fairly simple to understand the meaning, with a little language background. Being able to count in Japanese up to 5, one can piece together a series of techniques.

Ichi いち
San さん
Shi (or Chi), also pronounced Yon し、よん

    A basic Aikido technique can be referred, or recounted, to by piecing four elements (with various possibilities, each). The formula is as follows: Foot Stance + Attack Name + Technique Performed + Direction. An example includes "Ai-hanmi Katatetori Ikkyo Amote," which can be translated as "Mutual stance, one hand grabbing one wrist, first technique, in front."

    For all my Aikido friends, this 'technique construction' is common knowledge. With words such as nage, which comes from the Japanese verb nageru, meaning "to throw," and the word kokyu, meaning "breath," can be connected to create kokyunage meaning breath throw. If one chooses, they can make this more elaborate if they choose, by changing the technique performed during the technique as a whole, basically switching techniques midway. Perhaps this is why I enjoy Aikido so much, it allows me to be an architect of my surrounding physical space and energy. But, as stated, the vocabulary of Aikido is quite literal, and allows for the practitioner to make decisions, much like an artist. This truly makes Aikido, for me (and many others), a martial art.

    Now, how does this connect to Aiki Budo? Well… they don't use the same set of vocabulary. I'm still trying to work out the differences, but instead of ikkyo, they call it ikken/ikgen (forgive me if I have misquoted/spelled that). In addition to differences in semantics, the actual ukemi (way to fall or follow) is different. To some degree, falling is falling, but learning a new ukemi has proven a little harder than I would have thought. In Aikido, I am taught to tuck my leg and roll from one hip to the opposite shoulder. In Aiki Budo, no tucking of leg is done, though the same hip-to-shoulder method is employed. Also, Aiki Budo has me working on a side fall, yoku-ukemi, that proves to be especially tricky for my practice.

    All in all, the TGU club members have been incredibly helpful and patient with my Aikido habits that don't quite match Aiki Budo. Some of the members have approached me asking how Aikido is different, and it has been fun to try to explain in language, quickly failing by that, and moving to show them physically. It reminds me of how Kenosha Aikikai can be after class. It is important to note, also, how rank is displayed in the club. Being a university club, and university clubs in Japan are generally more serious than in the states, all freshmen in the Aiki Budo club are white belt, along with the sophomore students. Juniors at the university are brown belt, and seniors are black belt. So, I am luck to be able to train under about 4-6 black belts and the same amount of brown belts.

    One interesting thing is to hear members of the Aiki Budo club refer to O-Sensei as Ueshiba sensei. I suppose it is to be expected, but it feels weird to talk about Aikido without saying, "O-Sensei."

    At this point in the club practices I am still working off to the side, learning the differences and the vocabulary. Every class members take a, roughly, 30 minute warm-up session. The warm-up consist of doing various stretches and movements in higher repetitions. Not sure what Aiki Budo calls it, but tenkan movement(a "180-degree pivot to one's rear, on the lead foot") is usually done about 100 times each class, along with other tai sabaki. There is a heavy emphasis on tai sabaki, or "whole body movement," which I am happy to report is not all that different from Aikido. The names might be different, but the feeling remains the same. Also, there are different ways Aiki Budo approaches bokken (wooden sword) and jo (staff). Well, perhaps not that different, but new for me. And, it is nice to be in a class that last for 1.5-3 hours on a regular basis. Just saying.

    I'll continue to report on the various differences and similarities I discover as my time here continues. Also, I am not giving up on actual Aikido practice. I will be visiting a Kodaira Dojo in the next few days (hopefully), and will absolutely report at that time. The Dojo, Aikido Kobayashi Dojo, is about a kilometer from my dormitory. It might take about 20 minutes to walk there. I'm hopeful I can train there. I will need to investigate to see if they are Aikikai affiliated, but according to the Dojo's website, Kobayashi Sensei did train at Hombu, starting in 1954. Kobayashi Sensei had the good fortune to train under O-Sensei and the second Doshu (Kisshomaru). My only concern is the cost, so if anyone wants to send some funds my way for Aikido training, it would greatly help, and be greatly appreciated. Think of the positive energy that would create!

    If you have any questions about the Aiki Budo classes, or anything in Japan, I want to again extend an invitation to write me asking questions. If you don't have my email, you can contact me through the blog here.

    SO, until next time, enjoy everyone.

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