The keiko practice offered many gifts today. Following our warm up we proceeded into examine kokyu (breath) throws. There is a Japanese method of teaching string instruments to really young kids like age 4 and 5 year olds that is quite popular in the United States called the Suzuki method. And the principle behind this method is that the student is taught how to play the instrument first and then the learning to read music comes down the line. The children learn by imitating the teacher. I have Suzuki experiences in Aikido keiko practice all the time where I am trying to learn the movement but the understanding of what I am doing just about always comes at a later time.
We were practicing a particular throw from katate tori (single hand grab). The spiraled aspect of the shape of the hand as the hand pivots around the thumb or the pinky was such an Oprah “A Ha” moment for me. And how it works with the center was very revealing. These mudras (hand shapes that control the flow of ki) have a very specific movement which in turns affects the ki and hara (source of ki) of uke.
We then applied these mudras to Tenchi Nage (Heaven and Earth Throw) to see how it manifests from a two handed grab. For me the hands help to draw uke into the open space when connected to the center and the movement is generated from the center. Recently a friend mentioned how working with really good ukemi is like you are moving through water. Water offering no resistance and yet there is definitely a connection being made and just the right amount of connection for the moment. The mudras help to create that connection which in turn allows tori to shape the connection.
I always find “writing” about Aikido somewhat frustrating because it really is such an experiential art. One needs to get on the mat and feel it to really begin to understand it. And this goes back to the Suzuki String teaching method that there needs to be a level of faith required of the practitioner. We are guided by Sensei and Sempai that if we keep moving down the correct path in our lives whether it is Aikido, or buying a house or starting a relationship etc eventually an understanding of what we are doing will reveal itself to us in time. But it is up to us to continue to cultivate and work on staying on the “right” path.