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Ikeda Echos

by on August 14, 2015

Life has been hectic the past few weeks. This weekend I missed an opportunity to train with Henry Kono and the crew in Burlington. Happily the consolation prize was the Saturday portion of Ikeda sensei’s seminar in Portland.

[Note: I began writing the draft of this post way back in June. Things have indeed been busy. I returned to it this second week of August to find a half-written draft with some cryptic notes at the end. I’m going to do my do my best to conjure up as many of the memories as I can.]

True to my breathless pace as of late I stepped onto the mat in the morning still somewhat dazed. I had to switch my brain over from the Tomiki world of sugi ashi and tegatana dousa to the world of hanmi and tai no tenkan (/henkan?).

Once oriented, I experienced the seminar as a series of echoes.

After your first year or two of aikido, almost nothing you hear is new. Aikido may include an infinite variety of techniques, but these are made possible by a decidedly finite set of principles. It is the very rare lesson that introduces a truly novel idea.

In aikido, when a teacher offers advice it is almost always something the student has heard before. “Relax,” “keep your hand in your center,” “bend your knees” etc…

In this way, aikido classes are almost always echoes of previous classes, but the echoes are always more interesting when they come from different corners. Endo sensei echoing Nariyama sensei is less memorable as an echo because their aikido is very similar. Kono sensei echoing Nariyama sensei on the other hand is much interesting because their aikido could hardly be more different.

Part of the brilliance of the Windsong seminars is that, in their diversity, they are perfectly set up to create far-reaching echoes.

The primary lesson I took away from the Ikeda sensei seminar though, was actually not an aikido echo at all.

I was messing around with my brother’s structure the other night while standing around and talking. I was just looking to get a slight drifting feeling, and yet I found it quite difficult. When I began to run into the same problem in Ikeda sensei’s class I was primed for the answer (which of course was completely unsurprising, and yet timed perfectly).

The answer, at least at my primitive level was this: go ahead and make the connection with your hands, hold the structure in your arms, but when you want to generate drift, do it as non-locally as possible. Move your body.

As soon as I heard it it made total sense because this is what I have been spending the rest of my free time on. This is leading. Connect, hold your structure, move your center.

[We’ve now reached the cryptic notes section of the draft – with so much time elapsed I’m not going to try to fill in the blanks so much as complete the sentences…]

Ikeda sensei’s seminar seemed perfectly timed to review and re-examine the takeaways from the Windsong seminars. (Too bad I haven’t had much chance to keep the ideas alive since…)

I felt for the waves that Pat Parker had gotten me thinking about. When my connection became ineffective I was sometimes able to use Jason Mix’s rope analogy to reengage.

Brendan Hussey had left me with a puzzle about how to be loose and keep natural motion while retaining structure, and there were plenty of opportunities to try that (see primary takeaway).

Ikeda sensei’s focus on stripping away extraneous motion reminded me very much on the Daitoryu that Eric Pearson practices.

All in all, if memory and notes serve, it was a Sunday very well spent. It’s really too bad I’ve let so much dust accumulate. I guess I’ll have to get back at it next year…

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