Essay on Osawa Seminar
On 13th of April, 2013, one of the sport arena halls in Kuala Lumpur began to fill with some people wearing black skirts and others with white pants. They were greeting each other, then stretching and exercising - preparing their bodies and minds. After a while they received message “Get ready!” and aligned themselves in a rows where those wearing black skirts formed the front line while others were sitting in rows behind. In front of the rows of aikidokas is the portrait of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. They are focused and relaxed – there is a silence in the room. Suddenly, the rows of aikidokas start to bow – the seminar on aikido with Hayato Osawa Shihan from Hombu Dojo Tokyo is commenced now.
It happens rarely for most of aikidokas to see and practice with a master of shihan level, unless one is a student at Hombu Dojo in Japan. The seldom chance to learn from such a master as Osawa Shihan made many aikidokas attending the seminar to make a long journeys from their countries and for Malaysians to devote their weekends and energy for a two-day long seminar.
The style and technique of aikidoka if must be appraised should be done by the master of the same level or higher. Although the techniques shown during the seminar were not new for many of aikidokas, the style and the way of performing is always as it is the first time and is a subject for constant work on achieving perfection. The seminar was in a pace where everyone had a chance to understand and feel the form of the techniques according to own vision. No rush, no hustle and bustle.
At the start of seminar, Osawa Shihan told to aikidokas that they might have had own vision on how to perform but since they came, they should have tried to follow the techniques he was showing. The clear and honest communication regardless of difference in languages was maintained during the seminar by Osawa Shihan. Notable was the trait of the master to accept the people as they were and more notable was that he indiscriminately was giving chance to learn. And I remember him smiling and with his eyes also.
Each technique in aikido exists as an individual form of life. The techniques by the Osawa Shihan were demonstrated with a partner in the first place and then the movements from the just shown technique were repeated after the master as exercises. The first gave chance to aikidokas to observe and understand the technique while the second served a purpose of memory exercise for their bodies with a potential to turn into reflexes. The ability to properly perform techniques without involving thinking process allows aikidoka to move flawlessly and quickly where one of the ways to achieve this is through developing reflexes for basic movements. The executing of techniques during the seminar without a partner provided aikidokas with an opportunity to focus on the movements alone and to sense the directions in which they should move.
To keep the same attitude toward others and not put oneself higher is not only applicable in terms of personal relationships in aikido. Osawa Shihan noted during the seminar that if someone was taller than his or her partner, regardless of who performs techniques, the taller one should have adjusted his height to that one of his or her partner. The purpose of this is for the person who attacks to protect oneself during attack and maintain own balance, while for the defender it is to be able to execute technique properly. Thus, it is not to the advantage of the tall person to keep with own height if his partner in aikido is short.
One of the best ways to hit the books is to learn from mistakes done by others. The aforesaid was put in practice by Osawa Shihan demonstrating to aikidokas attending the seminar how they should not move and what they should not do when performing techniques. Truth will be told if we say that the techniques shown at the seminar by the master were intuitively conceived on all levels whether a person was an amateur or a shodan, young or senior. This fact distinguishes Osawa Shihan not only as a brilliant aikidoka but as a talented teacher also.
The importance of attending the seminars on aikido is to broaden one’s mind and understanding of what aikido is. Attending of the seminar where there are representatives of other nations is to learn to respect differences and that is one of the things which brings sanity into our life. To practice with and learn from a distinguished master is a valuable moment to live and experience.
3 kyu, a member of Malaysia Aikido Association,
Bukit Jalil Dojo, Kuala Lumpur
Dear aikido friends,
They always say that time flies, and now I know it sure does. I can still remember clearly the first day I walked into the dojo at Brickfields. Choosing a dojo to train in is not easy and has a huge impact on your growth as aikidoka. Therefore, I was very curious about what I was about to see.
It was Friday evening, and Dr. Leong was training his class. The atmosphere was serious, but relaxed and people were studying the techniques while having fun. Since that first visit, I became a regular on the Friday night.
Looking back on the past two and a half years, I am starting to realise what I have learned while training under the sensei at MAA. The respectful training, the emphasis on proper locks and immobilisation, the many different techniques and how they relate to each other; I will take this with me in my further training.
I know I sometimes was a difficult uke. I have been training under other shihan who sometimes place emphasis on different aspects of techniques. In the Netherlands, for example, they find it important to include the aspect of 'fear' or 'stress' in the techniques so that nage is trained on harmonising the energie. This means that I was used to give a committed attack and keep attacking during the whole technique. However, I do believe that, if you comply with the aikido-principles, all these slightly different paths lead to the same goal: harmony.
I cannot describe how much I enjoyed the training and learning at MAA. I would just like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation for the sensei and all aikidoka with whom I have trained with. Thank you for training with me, for teaching me and sharing the joy of practising a wonderful martial art.
2 February 2007
My history of being a member of Aikido community came as a long bumpy ride way back in 1996. I had stopped training twice during that period at the YMCA dojo due to work commitments. In March 2003, something that has long been buried in my subconscious resurfaced when I accidently bumped into MAA website. Again ..somehow I have chosen to pick one of the contacts to call and my dearest Low Sensei answered my call. That critical call has resulted in my close relationship with Aikido, MAA and all the beloved Senseis until this very moment as I am writing this testimonial, not to mention passing my Shodan grading in the recent 7th Malaysian Aikido Seminar with Seiichi Sugano Shihan.
From my experience, Aikido's philosophy is not only instilling but extending the virtues of harmony and tolerance in the sub-conscious mind. Every single move in the technique requires a good understanding of the body limitation and positioning advantage for effective application. I am not a top flight student in the MAA but I can proudly say that I have a fair understanding of that now. Like I always explain to the new students, learning the Art of Aikido is just like practicing your mathematics. As you practice more, you will understand better. Reading the maths books will get a person to pass the exam. The rule is practise, practise and practise. Practise with more people, more exposure, feel the force from your opponents / uke and find a more effortless and harmonious ways to neutralize the attack. These are among the keys for refining the skills and may perhaps change the practitioner's behaviour to be more moderate and humble in the long run.
Lastly, my respect and salute to all the Senseis in the MAA especially Low Sensei and Dr Leong Sensei whose classes I attended most of the time. The same goes to all my fellow friends in the dojo. Special thanks also go to all those who show their concern about my medical condition during my shodan grading. Without your encouragement and support, I do not think I can make it that far.
"Practise makes perfect, Impossible is just a state of mind"
11 August 2006
With bated breath and still drenched in sweat, we sat seiza and waited for the panel of examiners to make their remark on the results of the examination.
"For the shodan group, all passed.."
Those few words were indeed music to our ears; because the effort and the training put in for the past 4 years have paid off. Of course the examination was stressful especially for those who were very near the examiners table. 5 feet from examiners seats is too close for comfort, the pressure to do accurate locks and "smoothness" of the execution definitely increases. As Low Sensei puts it, "Exam is a platform to show what you have learned and understood to your teacher"
Nevertheless, we tried our best to perform what we have digested and practiced for the past few years.
My family and friends could not understand the passion I have developed for this art, probably because they have never experienced what I have gained from Aikido.
I still recall as a freshman with a black belt in Taekwondo, I remembered telling sensei that I took this up to understand the difference between a "hard" martial art and a "soft" martial art. I was initially rather skeptical over the seemingly choreographed movements of Aikido. During my teenage years when I was very much into Taekwondo, I believed that power and speed is the answer to winning & achievement in everything especially a fight or conflict. Hence, I developed this impatient behaviour that everything should be done with speed in order to achieve more; sometimes compromising on quality and worst off sometimes the need to repeat again due to errors.
As I mature and start to become a tax payer, I realize that life itself is not a bed of roses. Looking back to the student world, cramming for examination is just a walk in the park compared to the stresses of work performance which govern the career path and the salary you draw.
Aikido taught me how to address conflicts, especially work and relationship conflicts. The previous notion of speed and power (direct confrontation- the stronger prevails) seems to be the least effective way to deal with a crisis. Judging from different perspectives has helped to understand the situation better and therefore take control of it. This can be learned via the Tenkan movement.
In Tenkan movement, direct confrontational force is avoided and we gain similar view with the "attacker" therefore providing the "attacker's" point of view. Understanding this point of view allow us to understand the reason for the attack and brings the conflict a step closer to solution.
The other strong concept I learn about Aikido is the center or Tanden as my sensei told us. Keeping one's center needs an effort but with constant practice it will be built in our subconscious mind. This is important especially during movement and execution of Aikido. Most movements rely on the relativity of the Tanden postions of uke and nage. Off-setting one's Tanden will surely lead to off balance and subsequently a fall. In my daily practice, I interpret this as a great learning in understanding the concept of root of the problem and not forgetting one's root.
The application of Tanden to solve work or relationship conflict is possible if we remind ourselves that Tanden exist. Quite often work or relationship conflicts lead to further frustration due to negative emotions that besiege us. We tend to think of who is to blame and recall if the conflict has happened before. We also tend to defend our point of view or attack others when we often fail to look at the root of the problem. In such instances, a constant reminder of keeping one's Tanden during execution can be applied in a heated conflict.
Tanden, the source of ki generation and where it ends; reminds me that I shall never forget my roots wherever and whatever I may be. By having this thought constantly, it helps me keep my emotions in control especially in a heated situation where tempers may flare.
Another mythical and logic defying concept of Kokyu has always been a marvel to me. The powerful kokyu application as demonstrated in the unbendable arm and various other throwing techniques has proven the power of leverage. It is not a show of force but a show of applying the theory of Physics at its best by leveraging on fulcrum points. In Kokyu, I learned that sometimes doing little but doing it right can have enormous gains as compared to the more the better. I guess the saying of Work Smart and Not Hard is proven after all.
The examples I have just stated is probably a tip of the iceberg of what has yet to be discovered with Aikido and each individual may interpret it in a different way. Obtaining the Yudansha is just the beginning of getting into a deeper understanding of a beautiful art that has it all. As for me, Aikido has always been a universal learning system that is a wonderful mixture of art, science, spiritualism, discipline, Japanese culture and self defense . Such diversity will only keep one yearning for more.
I express my deep gratitude to Low sensei who has patiently taught me and took me under his wing, To all other senseis i.e Tony sensei, Dr Leong sensei, Tuck Wah sensei and other Yudanshas who has taught me all these years- Domo Arigatou Gonzaimasu!
10 August 2006
From a student at MAA for the past two and a half years, who was graded 'shodan' (1st Dan black belt) by Sugano Shihan (8th Dan):
This is to place on record my heart felt gratitude and appreciation for the dedication and guidance of all the MAA Senseis that I practice under. One of the advantages of the MAA is the six classes per week to choose from. Another advantage is that the student has five MAA Instructors to choose from! (Any number of classes and Instructors for MR60 per month!)
I especially wish to thank my Sensei who gave, in addition to his normal classes, extra classes to prepare us for the Yudansha (black belt) exam: Apart from these extra Sunday morning classes, I was especially impressed by a class he gave on a Saturday evening, because he could not teach us the next day! Tony Sensei also sometimes taught an additional class on weekdays and allowed his students to attend his other dojo (free of charge). It was not just his dedication to aikido that helped me improve, but also his personal attention to all students, from beginners to black belts.
I had been practicing aikido for years in another dojo before joining the MAA. My practice only improved to black belt standard under the MAA: It was the dedication and guidance of the Instructors at MAA that helped me achieve this grade on 15 July 2006.
I was also impressed by the number of MAA students who passed the Yudansha grading: twelve 1st Dan and three 2nd Dan black belts. Last year it had been less but the four ladies had outnumbered the men!
10 August 2006
To learn a Martial art has always been my childhood dream. Taking up Aikido was the greatest choice that I have made in my life. It benefits my health, body, mind, and spirit. The practice involves all aspects of my life, not just martial arts. I am able to stay active, fit and healthy because of it. I am also learning discipline, focus and self control.
The Aikido path is a positive direction to follow. An active life is a happy life. It provides a challenge to me, motivates me, and helps me believe in myself.
I learn something new every time I come to class. I hope to continue growing through this constant practice and proper guidance.
1 August 2006