Aikido is a non-competitive martial art that can be practiced by almost anyone. Aikido techniques do not rely on physical strength but rather develops relaxed power through the focus of intention and Ki. The result is a creative method of non-destructive conflict resolution.
Aikido is practiced on many levels. The first level is includes the development of stamina, flexibility, and learning how to focus one's intention. The second level is built on the first and stresses self-defense techniques that teach the natural order of movement. In this process the students also become adept at ukemi, the art of rolling, falling and protecting oneself. Aikido provides the opportunity for the development of the entire person. It is a workout of the entire body and mind and results in increased strength, overall physically fitness, flexibility and centeredness.
At the third level students are gradually introduced to the secrets of receiving and harnessing the power of ki, they also develop spatial awareness and learn to judge proper timing and distance. During this training the goal is to establish and maintain an energetic connection to your partner and to lead them off balance. This eliminates the need for more destructive means of resolving situations.
The highest level of aikido is mind over matter. This involves the use of visualization techniques, the power of intention and ki, breath control and meditation. Aikido is truly a spiritual martial art that explores themind - body - spirit connection. This advanced level of training at Shobu Aikido reaches a level not easily found elsewhere. The student learns how to manifest power and effectiveness by the focusing of intention alone. This level depends on and can only be reached through the refinement of technique and the students own deepest feeling. For this reason it alternates between the physical and the spiritual.
In the process of practicing aikido, students inevitably find themselves less stressed and more energetic, better equipped to manage life's many conflicts with calm control. Aikido is great for adults and kids alike because practice encourages respect for self and others, self control, cooperation and responsibility.
Gasshuku or weekend long intensive seminars with William Gleason Sensei are available seasonally.
Children's aikido classes provide a friendly, non-competitive environment for students to become more physically fit, agile, flexible, aware, focused, and relaxed. They learn how to safely fall, roll and perform a variety of self-defense techniques in a supportive, comfortable setting, and parents like Aikido because kids learn how to be powerful without becoming destructive.
Muketsu Invades D.C. (Part 5 of 5)
The last day was a half-day with the 8:30 AM class followed by a one-hour class with Ikeda Sensei and then a one-hour class with Saotome Sensei, ending at around noon.
For the two-sword 8:30 AM class, we reviewed the various kamae and the irimi-tenkan exercise. Next, Ledyard Sensei showed us more forms involving an Aiki-ken block from a shomen attack. This time, I partnered with Wendy Whited Sensei again. I enjoyed working with her.
“When your opponent and you both strike forth, and your opponent catches your blow, the idea is to close in with your sword glued to the opponent’s sword. Gluing means that the sword is hard to get away from; you should close in without too much force. Sticking to the opponent’s sword as if glued, when you move in close it does not matter how quietly you move in.” –from the “Water Scroll”
Next, we did a free waza-type exercise where we defended from different uke coming from different directions.
First we worked on bokken practice and showed us to do a yokomen attack, which is similar to a yokomen attack with the jo where the arms do not swing but rather the angle is created with body positioning involving moving the right or left shoulder forward. Next, he talked about dropping his weight in unbalancing uke. He told us to drop the tailbone without using the knees. Rather, the knees are used to stop the descent. He demonstrated this with the bokken where he emphasized putting the weight on the tip of the sword. He then applied this concept to hand-to-hand training. Think of this exercise as riding the Demon Drop in Cedar Point.
Saotome Sensei spent a good 30-40 minutes talking about various topics including using the mind as a weapon and the meaning of Shodan. He then talked about how there is no competition in Aikido. No championship. Previously, he stated that Aikido is about survival training. And today he stated that we are training to be champions of ourselves, of our lives.
“Warriors learn military science accurately and go on to practice the techniques of martial arts diligently. The way that is practiced by warriors is not obscure in the least. Without any confusion in mind, without slacking off at any time, polishing the mind and attention, sharpening the eye that observes the eye that sees, one should know real emptiness as the state where there is no obscurity and the clouds of confusion have cleared away.” –from the “Scroll of Emptiness”
After the conclusion of camp, I made my way down to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is about a 5-minute drive from the camp down Michigan Avenue NE, still located in the Catholic University campus. It is a magnificent church of art and architecture. The basilica consists of two churches, one in the lower level and the other in the upper level. It also contains several oratories and chapels, each showing various representations of the Blessed Mother of different cultures and nations, symbolizing the melting pot of America. The mosaics are spectacular; one would not think that this was built in the 20th Century.
Tips for Attending an ASU Summer Camp
1. Keep yourself well hydrated.
2. Bring an extra gi.
3. Bring a combination lock to keep your gear secured in the locker room.
4. Bring band-aids and Neosporin.
5. Bring athletic tape and a pair of scissors.
6. Trim your toenails!
7. Small towels to put inside your gi are useful during keiko.
8. If possible, try to find a nearby Laundromat to dry your gi during lunchtime. (I didn’t need to because I used the air conditioner in my car while I was getting lunch.)
9. Use a GPS system whether you’re using a rental car or your own car.
10. Don’t forget your yudansha passport (if applicable).
Critique of the 2010 ASU Summer Camp
The basketball court provided adequate space. The locker room was adequate with plenty of available lockers, showers, and bathrooms. There were vending machines for snacks and refreshments. There were chairs and couches in the second floor in the lobby for eating lunch, reclining, and napping. Finally, the water from the drinking fountain was very cold!
Registration Process: Excellent
Amy did an awesome job. Registration was located right at the main entrance, and the process was simple. I got a free t-shirt, and I was able to retrieve my signed yudansha passport without any trouble.
5 days of training was adequate. I liked how the first day was not a full schedule to allow time for registration. I also appreciated how July 4 was not a full day to allow time for the fireworks and the July 4 festivities. It was also good that the final day was a half-day to allow for travel exiting the city.
1. I felt that the day ending 8:00 PM was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I had a late dinner and I did not have enough time to spend with my friends and go out eating and sightseeing.
2. I also felt that the 8:30 AM weapons class was unnecessary. The Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo kata can be taught and reviewed at one’s home dojo. Also, there seems to be different variations and interpretations of these kata from one instructor to another. The only useful class was the two-sword basics class.
In an actual camp – like the ones I attended in grade school, high school, and the Zen Mountain Monastery – the day typically ends at 5:00 PM, dinner is at 6:00 PM, and the evening is reserved for playing, socializing, or meditation. And depending on the camp, I was able to sleep around 10:30 PM after having plenty of social activity and receiving plenty of sleep.
This is how I would have scheduled the camp:
8:00 – 10:00 AM: Rokudan Class
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei
12:00 – 2:30 PM: Lunch
2:30 – 4:00 PM: Two-Sword Basics Class
4:00 – 6:00 PM: Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei
Nearby Food/Restaurants: N/A
I didn’t do enough exploring to see what nearby restaurants are available for lunch. There is a 7-11 and a Domino’s Pizza within walking distance. For me, I relied on the organic market, which is a 2-3 minute drive.
You can’t go wrong with Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei. Furthermore, it was good to have the different rokudans being given an opportunity to teach and for us to receive different perspectives of aikido. Also, the use of the microphone was a plus.
In keeping with the 2-Sword Theme: Below Average
With exception of the basics class at the 8:30 AM class, of all the time spent in the camp, there was only one hour that Saotome Sensei dedicated to actual 2-sword training. I’m sure that 2-sword principles are inherent in Saotome Sensei’s teachings, but they were not explicitly discussed, practiced, and explored. If it were not for George Ledyard Sensei, who was the only one other than Saotome Sensei to talk about the use of two swords, I would have given this a “Poor” rating.
Overall Grade: B
It was the experience that balanced out the negatives that were discussed above. Great training. Great teaching. Great training partners. You rarely get the opportunity to train one-on-one with high-level senseis as training partners. They are very helpful, and they drop a few hints here and there. They also appreciate it if you give very honest and challenging ukemi, and they don’t mind if you are able to land a good atemi. During this experience, I met some very nice people and made some good friends. I want to thank everyone who trained with me, and I want to thank those people for their indulgence and tolerance. I also want to acknowledge the Aikido Shobukan Dojo for a well-organized and well-managed camp. I hope to come again and see and train with all of you in the future.
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