Tuesday, 29 September 2015

hunny, i'm home!

"Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water." This is probably my favourite quote ever. One that keeps giving and giving. :)

I've gone on my pilgrimage and returned. In fact, I've returned for some weeks now, but have been engaging in some R&R, and catching up on life. I left with questions, and came back with different insights, which have left the initial questions null anyway.

So much to say, but nothing much to say really. After meeting these two men who are arguably at the peak of their respective worlds, it gave me an appreciation of my own little place in the world. There is no rush. I may, or may never, be anywhere close to where these men have gotten to, but it matters not. I am where I need to be.

"It is truth that liberates, not your effort to be free." -- Krishnamurti

how all these cliched sayings say so little, yet say so much. it is wonderful how the significance and meaning of all these change depending on the exact context and moment when it is contacted upon.

it is quite freeing to realise that after all these years--after almost 10 years of dedicating, and almost marrying, myself to this path, i was finally reminded that it was never meant to be that way. a vehicle is abandoned after its purpose is met. has my budo completed its journey? no i don't believe so. but when the time comes, i can and will leave it with an open heart. and that my friends, is an incredible thing for me to say. of all people, i would have dismiss this talk as hogwash if i only had read this post a couple of months ago.

personal insight aside, i just want to make a quite comment that Dan Harden certainly deserves the reputation that he has. he's a really bubbly, and extremely knowledgeable budo exponent, whom is just so overwhelming in all different ways. most importantly, his ability to manifest what he says, into an actual, tangible, palpable event seems to stand out the most. oh, not to mention is passion and ability to teach it as well. but more on that another time.

Vlad interesting enough, seems to be one of the happiest, and most contented person i've met. he doesn't seem to take things too seriously--just enough, just right. a wonderful, delicate balance--both in life, and in martial application. one of the more ironic and paradoxical turns that i've noticed as well is how my initial view of aikido as the pacificist, peaceful art, and systema as it's dirty, street version, has now completely swapped roles. aiki-do is now the full-on, intense martial way, whilst systema is a more universal, global force of inner peace. ha! take that for a bit of a paradigm shift.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

off to see the wizards

i'm not sure if i've already spoken about this before, but at any rate, this time tomorrow, i'll be on a flight to North America for arguably the biggest budo pilgrimage in my life. for the first half of my trip, i'll finally come to meet the infamous Dan Harden--the reputed god amongst men in terms of martial prowess. i've heard and read so much about Dan, that i'm not sure if nothing less seeing him split the Red Sea would impress me. that said, perhaps feeling his aiki first-hand would finally put the rest the doubts and wonderings i have about the said phenomenon. we'll see. the time is coming very close now.

after two weeks of slogging it out developing aiki, i'll take a relatively short flight to Toronto, where i'll meet yet another martial giant--Vladimir Vasiliev. i'm not sure my mind, body, or spirit, would be able to absorb so much experience from two very [seemingly] distinct worlds in such a short space of time, but i'm certainly getting moist thinking about it!

one way or the other--for better of for worse, this trip is going to be a game changer for me, i feel. perhaps i'm willing it to be so; to make some sort of decisive determination of where i go from here. even if i return to status quo, then i will do so with a quiet mind--not one wrestling with doubts and questions. well, is that necessarily a bad thing? ahh--there it goes again. let's see what happens over the coming weeks, and what happens. no point presupposing too much at this time. what will be will be.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

training with Simon 22/6/15

second training session since the gasshuku with Bill sensei. we spent almost the first half working on super basics, i.e. pulling silk/6-directions, and testing stability. not easy at all, but important. in fact, it is the very foundation of all aiki/IP type work.

struggled with the exercise of raising the arms without firing the deltoids. not quite sure how that works yet, but we were working that. followed that with some aiki-age, exercises from ryote-dori, with focus on not firing the deltoids... with little success.

then expanding in six-directions whilst held in katatedori. i forgot several key principles, namely shooting my intent far and wide, as well as causing/using the polarity of yin-yang at the contact point. whilst i had some successes, they were pretty hit and miss at this point, with little awareness about what i do, or not do, that makes it work. it reminds me of my earlier days in Systema, where some of my punches were heavy, and some weren't.

practised receiving shomen uchi strike, with an aiki-based shomen uchi response. progressed that into an irimi nage. remembering to not harmonise with uke, but in fact, make uke harmonise with me--or the aiki. finally, had some struggle with the finish, which Simon pointed out the change in how we 'unbow' the arms now. previously 'unbowing' was akin to movement along a sliding track, now, there was a slight arc, and forward projection of the elbow, but that it had to remain pointed up/down.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that intent needs to be sent out via the palms, while simultaneously back from the elbows to produce the sticky feeling on the forearms--its value particularly obvious for the shomen uchi receiving exercise. Very important.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

striking the tension

had another great session with Frank this morning. i'm sad to think that i won't be getting much more opportunity to catch up with him again once i return to my usual work schedule after next week. anyway, we had a chance to work at a higher intensity today, and had a one-for-one 'free play' exercise. in aikido speak, it was kinda like a jiyuwaza type scenario.

initially i was aware of my tension building due to fear and excitement, leading me to rush and blindly strike. however, as i got more comfortable, and slowed myself down, it was interesting to discover how much i could see. more specifically, it was really fun and rewarding to look for and strike specific tension. usually i would just strike whenever i got a chance, however, i was trialing today on how to be a bit more selective and intentional about what i was doing instead.

this session crystallised the idea of "striking the tension" that i have heard a lot of--particularly from Martin Wheeler. in the past, it was an interesting concept, but merely something figurative i would work with. then possibly a couple of years ago at Martin's seminar, i saw him describe tension in a much more understandable way, but still hard to detect, find, much less strike at. today with Frank however, it seemed super obvious (and tangible) where the tension was located--possibly because Frank was well-toned--and it really did not take much to break his structure. the strikes were penetrating, numbing, and deep, without requiring much effort at all.

let's see if i continue with this, and not lose it!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

aiki v2.0

attended another gasshuku by Bill Gleason sensei about a fortnight ago, and once again was floored by the reality that i knew nothing. well, at least not very much at all. in fact, Simon whom attended an extra session the evening before the gasshuku pulled me aside on the Saturday morning to tell me to forget everything he taught me, because it was apparently all wrong.

haha. that's right, everything i've been posting on my blog has been off the mark, so wipe of the slate, and let's start again. aiki 2.0. ;)

well, to be fair to Simon, i think this was a necessary part of our development. it was great that Simon was nonetheless able to recognise the importance of shedding inaccurate notions or ideas as soon as he was aware of a better one. i mean, he could have easily dismissed that, and stubbornly pursued his own path as the only right one. at any rate, it was a good humbling exercise for us all, and having the sense of us starting together again.

naturally there was way too much covered to give it any justice here, but i think the single biggest element or insight i've gained from that recent seminar, was a clearer understanding about what Bill meant about "not doing anything to uke". Bill had previously spoken about being independent from your uke, and simply doing your own thing, and being "one with the universe". However, it was more of an intellectual concept that i had previously. this year however, it became a little more apparent, what it meant at a practical/physical level.

for instance, Simon and i had previously been focusing on channeling our intent strongly into uke. however, Bill made it clear this year, that we should consider uke no more than a buzzing fly around us, and that we simply do our own aiki, and move accordingly. of course, it is a little trickier than that. my interpretation of that means that we need to pull silk/establish the 6 directions etc., and then somehow continue expanding, and spiraling around as we please. if uke was somehow attached to you via a grab or strike, they would be sucked/stuck on that contact point, and eventually fall down.

it is one of those things however that is easier than done. last night, training with Simon for the first time since the gasshuku, it became apparent how easy it is to get my concentration stuck on the contact point (i.e. grab), and then start to push or pull. it was really difficult to ignore uke, and simply expand. that said, with a lot of patience on Simon's part, we made some progress, although my left elbow had a bad habit of 'expanding' too far back most of the times.

anyway, lots more to learn. start again. learn and forget. learn and forget.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

get low, get low... get low, get low!

last night's session with Simon was one of the rare ones where i wasn't completely shite. i made a big insight in fact! the hugest (not sure if it is a real word) thing i have come to realise is how important to go under someone. perhaps not so much physically, but certainly in terms of the direction of the intention. i recall several months back when we were trying to do something to Paddy, Simon's brother, whom is a senior Karate teacher. blood hell, Paddy was close to impossible to move when he was planted. heck, even Simon struggled! but Paddy commented that whilst Simon went under him, it felt like I was coming down on top of him when doing the same technique.

somehow last night, some of these things came together, and it occurred to me that from trying to crush my uke from above, i have tried lifting uke directly from the contact point. instead, what i SHOULD have been doing instead was go from under and around the contact point, i.e. another mini spiral there. this also reminded me of some other systema exercise from Andrea that i had a lot of trouble with previously (probably still do).

anyway, so we did these things last night:-

  • ryote dori attack: tenchi nage response (ala Simon/Gleason variation). sending water ki/intention from palm/vertical power through a split second before using fire ki/elbow power/rotational power to cause spiral. lower hand has intent of somewhat grabbing uke's spine and moving it, whilst upper hand is spiraling upwards.
    • again noting that the feeling, particularly for the uprooting part, should be coming from under! this should be the same/similar feeling to the typical aiki age exercises/techniques.
    • sometime the opposite is true, i.e. where the intent/power is coming from above, e.g. Ikkyo entry (ala shomen uchi counter), or aiki sage exercises/techniques.
    • note however that as most techniques/movements are a combination of these feelings, ala a spiral, so it is usually very dynamic--sometimes above, below, and around the contact point.
  • shomen uchi attack: dai ikkyo reponse via first a mutual shomen uchi cut. take uke's centre from the start, maintain threat of atemi (feeling of water ki/vertical power/forward intent). Then quickly spiral, and get aiki age feeling, i.e. by going under.
  • hand pushing against trunk: after pulling silk etc., getting aiki sage feeling (and aiki age if possible) and taking uke's balance just by using the trunk of your body. Then, in order to move forward, send power and intent diagonally upward from your feet to opponent's centreline.
    • note to self: tendency to lean of uke, and cause front foot to float
    • Simon demonstrated taiji 'shovel power', i.e. knees forward and down, then up and forward, to generate power, directed and expressed via hands. but in this exercise, transmitted via just the trunk.
  • morote dori attack: make sure silk pulled properly, i.e. grabbed arm has enough intent, and then use it to grab uke's spine (intent-wise), and also use eyes to focus on getting uke's centreline. Once you get it, then spiral from back knee or qua, through hand, and uke should lose balance ridiculously easily.
Oh yeah, after getting completely flummoxed by the numerous different places and ways intent is supposed to originate from, and then sent to, Simon was able to simplify it for me. Although i vaguely remember being told that the options are ultimately infinite, for a n00b like me, it is useful to have some basic guidelines at this stage nonetheless. So the 3 main targets for intent are typically uke's elbows, centerline, and feet (usually back foot).

And Simon must have noticed my growing frustration, because he gave me some encouraging feedback about my progress. It has been really good to hear, not to stroke my ego, but because it means i'm not floundering around pointlessly, as it can feel like very frequently. It can be very challenging being at the bottom of the class over a sustained period of time... ;)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

more legwork with Frank

had a great training session with Frank this morning. loved it. it looks we might be able to do a bit of training for the next few weeks, which is a rare treat. Frank was happy to go with my request to do more legwork, and we mostly started off our paired drills with pushes, and countering with legwork. at first it was simply countering with a simple hit (placement to start with rather than full force kick) of the foot or knee. then it was a two-hit combo from that same leg. next, it was one-two combo, from each leg. next, take-downs via legwork. then combination of all. then countering the counter (i.e. kaeshi waza). finally, finishing all above with pins using the legs. what a beaut~!

Frank also gave me a great tip about the feeling of "just walking into your opponent's space", with everything that he does. whether it's normal strikes, takedowns, or in this case, legwork--the feeling is the same... pretty much just walking comfortably and relaxed. this particular stood out for me when i doing the one-two combo with the legs. i noticed myself struggling for balance and precision, as i was hopping all over frentically, trying to get my balance. but once i got into the rhythm of just "kick, step, kick, step" ala a 'normal walk', it felt much easier. oh, i also learned some new variations of the pins. i seemed to have picked up the pins to the upper body/head already from last week, but i've noticed Frank pinning on the lower half of the body, which feels just as effective. session felt great. i know he doesn't read this blog (nor anyone else), but thanks Frank!!!