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Cabin Fever

by on March 20, 2014

There haven’t been many opportunities for practice since I got back from the RMI seminar in Denver. Practices at Hall’s have been canceled until we can drum up enough interest to make the finances work. There was one seminar at Portland Aikido a few weeks ago, always a good time, but not much else.

The Midcoast Aikido group has decided to leave Hall’s entirely and move to the Bath YMCA. Their inaugural practice was this Sunday and had a pretty good turnout – Steve even made it up from New Hampshire. Practices will be limited to Sunday mornings for the time-being.

Though the Midcoast group decided to leave Hall’s, I will be staying behind if I can drum up enough interest. As a small, unaffiliated group, insurance was a big hurdle for them. For me, under the umbrella of the TAA, it shouldn’t be a problem.

I think the hiccup at Hall’s could be a blessing in disguise. I’m planning to remain a part of the Midcoast group and attend their practices when I can, but it was high time for me to start taking my own classes more seriously. I’ve had to put in some hard work trying to get the new program off the ground, but it will all be worth it if it works.

It hasn’t all been work either – I had some fun putting together this little promo:

We’ll see where it goes. If we can build up an experienced base of students there’s no reason we can’t start doing some really exciting things like hosting seminars with top JAA or SAF instructors, or bringing a small group to international events. I’m excited.

Stay tuned.

I’ll wrap up this post with a few reflections from the Portland Aikido seminar that I meant to write up weeks ago:

Since joining the Omi Aikikan and Shodokan Shiga in 2006 I have always been a part of multiple groups each with their own slightly different styles and cultures. It’s easy to forget what it’s like when you’re only in one group, and you’re convinced that your way is “best.” (“Oh you’re still doing Tomiki.” – yes, but I’d like to learn your method as well…)

There are always a few things that befuddle me at Aikikai seminars. Hanmi is inevitably one of them. But I also bring some secret weapons from my Tomiki background. One thing I think almost all Aikikai practitioners could benefit from is a systematic look at tegatena use. Even some of the higher level instructors seem to be futzing with their hands at times, where if they had the ideal of a tegatena ingrained in their muscle memory there would be much less of this subtle inefficiency.

A real familiarity with the potential of the tegatana, developed through years of drills (the kuzushiwaza in particular), can seem like a superpower in an Aikikai seminar. Secretly integrating kuzushiwaza is usually the most enjoyable part of Aikikai seminars for me, and likewise, its always enjoyable to practice tenshin-nage or irimi-nage at Tomiki seminars. It’s fun to be an expert at something.

But that’s not why I go to seminars. When I first joined the Omi Aikikan I thought I understood tegatana use. But in an Aikikai setting it became really obvious that I did not. It was as if I was trying to do everything with frozen robot hands.

It was uncomfortable, but that’s what makes you learn. If you can push yourself through those moments, eventually you can get to a point where you can secretly be doing kuzushiwaza and the Aikikai folks think you’re just doing the technique really well, or you can secretly be using a Henry Kono strategy and the Tomiki folks just think you have good timing.

Those moments where you excel are the payoff, but the only way to get there is to be uncomfortable, to make yourself vulnerable, to put your frozen robot hands out in the open, and let someone help you to soften them.

Hopefully my new aikido classes will be starting up in April.  I’m really going to enjoy it. But I’m also on the lookout for the seminars that will make me feel the most uncomfortable, because that’s the only way I’m going to grow.

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