Kendo, Aikido, martial art related

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aikido Seven Suburi

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The seven suburi are an integral part of our style of aikido. This little document is an attempt to get the beginner's arms and legs moving in roughly the correct form, and as a reminder for those times when memory fails. It is in no way definitive, and any real detail must come from personal instruction.

Holding the Bokken
Begin by standing in right hanmi. The bokken is held by placing the left hand at the bottom of the hilt with the little finger almost falling off the very end of the hilt. The grip is primarily between the thumb, ring finger and little finger, and is applied with a wringing motion, keeping the arm relaxed. The knuckle of the left hand index finger of the should be halfway between the top and the side of the weapon. The middle and index fingers should be relaxed and tucked under the bokken. The right hand should be one fist's width above the left hand and it should mirror the left hand grip in all respects. It is important to grip with a wringing motion and to keep the arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible. The bokken should be held out in front of the tanden or center with a feeling of extension. The orientation of the blade is rotated slightly clockwise from the vertical.

All of these exercises start from right hanmi with the bokken held as described above. This will be referred to as a basic ready position.

First Suburi
The first suburi is a basic shomen cut From the ready position, raise the sword so that your left hand is on your forehead and the sword is angled slightly back. During this movement your hips should turn from a triangular orientation to a square one. Cut down and out with a wringing motion, as if you were flinging something off the tip of the bokken, and let your hips return to their triangular position. Finish with the sword in front of your center. The tip should be just slightly lower than the hilt, though you should not allow your wrists to flex up in order to accomplish this. At all times keep the sword within the plane of your centerline. Always cut with a relaxed motion.

Second Suburi
From the ready position, step back deeply with the right foot and raise the sword so that the left hand is just above the left eye. This position is known as hasso kamae. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut.

Third Suburi
This suburi starts the same as number 2, except the sword raise continues over head in a circular motion until the sword is almost resting on the right hip. This position is known as waki kamae. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut, making sure the sword comes directly down the center line.

Fourth Suburi
From the ready position raise the sword as you bring the right foot back to the left foot. The sword should be directly overhead and your feet should be together. Step forward with the left foot and perform a shomen cut. Now raise the sword as you bring the left foot back to the right foot. Step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut. Continue this process while alternating feet.

Fifth Suburi
Do a shomen strike as in number 1. Rotate the blade clockwise until the edge is up while raising the hilt to your forehead. Simultaneously rotate the left hip back and the right hip forward. This is a _right parry_. Let the tip of the bokken drop and continue around behind you in a circular motion as you step forward with the left foot and perform a shomen cut. Rotate the blade counterclockwise until the edge is up while raising the hilt to your forehead. Simultaneously rotate the right hip back and the left hip forward. Your arms should end up in a crossed position. This is a _left parry_. Let the tip of the bokken drop and continue around behind you in a circular motion as you step forward with the right foot and perform a shomen cut. Alternate left and right in this way, moving across the floor.

Sixth Suburi
This suburi is the same as number 5, with one addition; in between each cut and parry shuffle forward slightly and perform a _tsuki_ on that side. A tsuki on any side is a thrust to the midsection with the tip of the bokken. Shuffle forward slightly with the front foot and turn the blade so that it faces the opposite side from the front foot, e.g., a right tsuki has the right foot forward and the blade facing left. Again, alternate left and right in this way, moving across the floor.

Seventh Suburi
This suburi starts from the ready position with a right shomen cut. Move forward with the left foot and perform a left tsuki. Perform a left parry and step forward with the right foot int a right shomen cut. Repeat, moving across the floor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Aikido Common challenges

Every student is encouraged to practice at their own pace and level. Beginners are helped to go slowly and practice at a level which is safe and appropriate. However, many beginners will experience some common difficulties that can be part of starting Aikido.

The first difficulty is simply being a beginner. Everything will seem strange and difficult, and you will feel klutzy and out of place. Don’t worry. Beginners are supposed to be beginners. The advanced people will welcome the opportunity to help you with your practice, just as they were helped when they were beginners.

Beginners often feel uncomfortable being attacked or acting the role of the attacker. However, the attack/defense process is a model for all of life’s challenges, and learning to handle feelings of discomfort in Aikido is a way of finding harmony in all of life’s difficult moments. In Aikido, the attack is a gift which allows us to practice and grow. There is no ill will in the attack or the defense.

Some beginners have an opposite difficulty: they feel that Aikido practice is unrealistic. In order to be safe, Aikido must be “unrealistic” to some extent. Aikido practice is kata — that is, pre-arranged attack/defense movement routines. Kata are meant to create a safe practice situation in which you can learn the basics, so that you have general patterns which you can intuitively and spontaneously modify to fit the specific requirements of a real attack. Kata are not meant to be actual combat.

Some beginners have a hard time accepting corrections to their techniques. It is hard for people to realize that such criticism is not belittlement but is offered as a gift and comes from a respectful desire to help people understand and improve. This is important. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn, and you will learn best if you enjoy discovering your mistakes. Try not to be ashamed of making mistakes.

During practice, the instructor will ask people to help demonstrate the techniques to be practiced. Of course, someone has to act the role of the attacker in order for the instructor to demonstrate the defense. Many people feel shy about demonstrating in front of the class, but everyone gets used to it. It is an opportunity to participate and learn, but you can always ask not to be used if it makes you too uncomfortable.

A few people may find that being attacked in Aikido parallels or brings up actual attacks they have experienced. If you feel this kind of discomfort, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for help.

Another area of confusion has to do with individual learning styles. Everyone is different, and each person learns and teaches in her or his unique way. You may find that some styles of practice don’t seem to “speak” to you and you may feel like avoiding them. Sometimes it is right to follow your intuition and practice the way you know you need to. However, if you avoid everything that is unfamiliar and confusing, you will miss out on new possibilities. Sometimes it is right to practice what you are shown, even when you don’t understand it or agree with it. Normally, proper class etiquette is to practice respectfully whatever is being taught in class.

If you are engaged in a practice that you feel is more than you can handle, you have options. In most situations, the problem can be solved by asking your partner to “go easier.” But if this does not help, you can simply excuse yourself and move to practice with another partner or sit out the particular practice that is difficult for you. At the next immediate opportunity, you can resume normal practice.

If there is some part of the practice that is too uncomfortable, talk with the teachers or advanced students about it and they will help you find a way to deal with it. You may wish to put off doing that part of the practice until you have more experience in Aikido. Usually it is possible to modify the training and make it more suitable for your stage of practice. In any case, as a beginner, you will never have to do anything that you don’t want to, and you will never be made fun of.

If you experience a problem or conflict with a specific person during practice, you could talk with the instructors about it, or you could talk with senior students if you would find that more comfortable. You could also arrange a meeting between you and the other person, with an instructor present to help. If you feel that you are experiencing a problem which affects the whole dojo, you could bring that problem up at one of the dojo meetings.

Ask questions. If you have difficulties, talk with a senior student or an instructor off the mat when full attention can be given to your concerns. Most of all, remember that Aikido practice can be a lot of fun, and don’t let the difficulties get you down.

source : internet article

Aikido Common Questions

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Aikido is completely new for most people, something unlike anything they have ever done in their lives. Most people have questions and anxieties about beginning Aikido. Most of the common questions have simple answers.
1) What kind of shape do I have to be in? Aikido practice can be tailored to meeting your needs and abilities, so you don’t have to be in good shape to start.

2) Do I have to be big and strong to do Aikido? No, Aikido techniques depend on softness and efficiency of movement, not sheer bulk or strength.

3) Is Aikido good exercise? Yes, it definitely is, but you will start off practicing slowly and get more vigorous as you learn how to do the movements safely.

4) Are injuries common? No. Since Aikido is non-competitive and since the techniques are designed to be non-violent, there are relatively few injuries in Aikido.

5) Am I too old to start practicing? Aikido can be practiced and enjoyed safely by people of any age. If you have any questions about specific medical conditions, check with your doctor.

6) Won’t the advanced students be irritated at having to practice with a beginner? No they won’t. We change partners frequently. Everyone practices with everyone else. Advanced students can learn from beginners, and the willingness to help beginners is part of the spirit of Aikido.

7) Is there a religious component to Aikido? No there is not. There is an underlying philosophy of respect for life, but no religious practices. The founder of Aikido was devoutly religious and expressed his understanding of Aikido in his religious terms, but that is not part of Aikido as such.

8) Do I have to speak Japanese or memorize a lot of Japanese vocabulary? Definitely not. There are Japanese practice terms that are part of Aikido, but they will gradually seep into your memory as you hear them over and over again.

9) How long does it take to get a black belt? It may take around six years. However, it really depends on how often you practice, how athletic you are, and whether you are ready to deeply examine your movements. Everyone should practice at their own pace, and the black belt will come when it does.

8) Can I use Aikido to defend myself? Aikido is a very powerful and effective selfdefense art. However, this question is essentially unanswerable. Whether you can defend yourself depends on who will be attacking you and how long you will have been studying. If you have practiced Aikido for three years and you are attacked by someone who has practiced Karate for twenty-five years, you will probably not be successful in defending yourself. Or you may surprise yourself and succeed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Postures, Stances and Body Shifting in Karate

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Basically there are three postures widely used in karate. The front-facing posture is mainly used in attack and the shoulders are at ninety degrees to the line of attack. The half-front-facing posture is mainly used in defence and the shoulders are at forty-five degrees to the opponent's line of attack. The side-facing posture, in which the shoulders are in line with or parallel with the line of attack, is used both in attack and defence.

With all three postures the upper half of the body will normally be straight and perpendicular to the ground, otherwise the balance will be endangered and the correct performance of most techniques difficult if not impossible. Naturally, the rare occasion does arise which calls for a non-perpendicular posture.

As much as the posture, the stance is an integral part of any technique you perform. Therefore, a strong technique from a weak stance is a contradiction in terms. The different stances used are the outcome of two considerations - one for strength, the other for agility. The actual ratio of these factors varies with different stances.

Heisoku-dachi (attention stance). Just stand naturally with the feet together and the weight evenly balanced on both feet. The knees should be not quite straight.

Hachiji-dachi (open leg stance). As for the above but with the feet about a shoulders' width apart. This and the preceding stance are simply natural stances from which you can move with maximum smoothness into stances appropriate to actual karate techniques.

Zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance). This stance is very strong toward the front and is useful both in attacking to the front and in blocking attacks coming from the front.

Step with one foot about two shoulders' widths forward and about thirty degrees diagonally to the side. Keep the back leg straight. Bend the front leg, forcing the knee outward directly over the big toe. Both feet should be flat, the front foot pointing slightly inward. In this stance the front leg takes sixty per cent of the body weight.

Kokutsu-dachi (back stance). A very useful characteristic of this stance is that, after having used it in stepping back and blocking or avoiding an attack, a mere shift of body weight into the forward stance enables you to close with the opponent and counter-attack immediately. Also, as most of the body weight is taken on the back foot, the front foot is free for kicking.

Again, the legs are about two shoulders' widths apart. A line extended to the rear from the front foot should touch the heel of the back foot, and this later should be at a right angle with the line. The rear leg takes seventy per cent of the body weight, and should be deeply bent and forced outwards. The front leg should not be quite straight, otherwise a stamping kick to the knee would easily break it.

Kiba-dachi (straddle/stance). This is a strong stance when attacking or defending to the side.

As in the two previous stances the feet should be two shoulders' widths apart. The feet themselves should be turned a little inwards, the knees forced outwards, so that the legs are rather like bows under tension. This involves a screwing tendency of the feet into the floor which is essential for the stability of the stance. It is equally important that the knees should be bent
deeply, thus keeping the centre of gravity low. The weight of the body is carried evenly on both legs, all the muscles of which (along with those of the pelvis) should be tightened. Sanchin-dachi (diagonal straddle stance). A stance equally strong to the sides and to the front - for attacking or defending.

As in the straddle stance, the knees must be tensed outwards. This is, in fact, just the straight straddle stance with one of the legs twisted forward, the front knee over the big toe and the rear knee a little in front of the big toe. The body weight is again carried evenly on both legs.

Neko-ashi-dachi (cat stance). Here the front leg carries hardly any of the body weight and so it can easily be used for kicking. Another great advantage of this stance is that from it you can easily and quickly move into any other stance - whether to the front, back, or to one side.

The back should be absolutely straight. Keep the rear foot flat and raise the heel of the front foot, the knee pointing a little inwards. The rear knee should be well bent.

Body Shifting
In karate, body shifting may be achieved by stepping, sliding, turning, or by any combination of these basic elements. The following general rules apply to all methods of body shifting:

1. Your head should be always more or less at the same height from the floor. Therefore, when moving from one wide-legged stance to another your feet come together and your knees must be well bent. This helps to maintain a strong balance.

2. You should neither raise your feet very high from the floor nor drag them. You loose both speed and balance in either case.

3. Whether fast or slowly, the weight of your body must always be shifted smoothly.

4. Begin and end every movement in a strong, correctly-spaced stance, and maintain correct posture throughout the movement.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fundamentals of Kendo III : Nigiri

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Nigiri (the hand grip)
The method of gripping the hilt is the foundation of the cut and the movement of the Shinai. If the hands are incorrectly placed it is impossible to deliver a correct stroke, especially with regard to the left hand. Because of the gloves, this is difficult to see clearly but the position is the same as in the plate.

The left hand is always at the very end of the hilt, regardless of whether the student is left, or right-handed. The hilt lies transversely across the palm of the hand along the line of life, crossing under the base of the index finger and the butt lies in the heel of the hand. The three smallest fingers curl back over the hilt to point back at an angle of forty-five degrees to its length, and tighten firmly to pull the butt into the inner palm which we call Tenno-uchi (inside hand). The fore-finger and thumb just curl about the hilt in a comfortable position.

The Tuska-gawa (hilt leather) of modern Shinai are constructed with more length and the right hand is placed with an inch or so clearance below the guard. This is to avoid the excessive wear of the glove constantly rubbing against the guard.

The wrists are snapped well inwards so the hands lie along the top of the hilt and the knuckles of each fore-finger should be aligned with the edges. The Shinai should form a natural extension of the arms and the hands be in the ideal position for maximum control. The correct grip will only be possible if the wrists are supple and again this is a question of practice.

The Tenno-uchi (inner palm) of the left hand is the main cutting source and the placing of the left hand most important. The right hand does almost nothing, merely supporting the Shinai and guiding direction. Once the correct grip is understood the left hand is aligned with the Chushin (body centre) and thrust about four inches forward.

Students should avoid grasping squarely since this stiffens the arms and shoulders, or allowing the hands to slip around the sides of the hilt. In this case it is impossible to control the cutting and movements of the Shinai.

Fundamentals of Kendo II : Kamae

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Kamae (positions of posture)
Kamae actually means 'Posture' but in context is more clearly expressed as 'position' since it refers specifically to the position in which the Shinai or bamboo practice sword is held. The height of blade is divided into three levels or Dan (steps) and designated as Jodan (high step), Chudan (middle step), and Gedan (low step). 'No-kamae' means 'posture of', but the short form as above is general.

Seigan no kamae (natural posture)
Seigan (natural step) is the more common name for Chudan. The right foot is advanced with the knee slightly bent; the left leg is straight with the heel clear of the floor. The Shinai is held in front of the body with both hands, in a natural manner that does not interfere with the basic Shisei. The sword points directly at the opponent's eyes and crosses his point about three to four inches from the tip. This is at a distance of some seven to seven feet six inches and defined as Ma-ai or the theoretical distance from which an attack can be launched with a single step attack.

Seigan (or Chudan) is defined as when the blade points forward from the left hand, which is held in line with the Chushin (body centre), at an angle above horizontal and below the opponent's eyes. A lower angle more completely covers the front attack line whilst a higher angle to cover the eyes has more psychological effect on the opponent. Seigan is the most important posture to study and understand. It is the only position which covers the front attack line and also the only position to give equal facility for offence or defence as required. All variations are virtually a weakening of this basic stance, used to deliberately provoke an attack by the opponent.

Judan-no-kamae (high posture)
Jodan is the only important variation used today and is favoured in contests. Jodan has a very strong character since it is very aggressive. 'Jodan' is universally taken to mean Migijodan- no-kamae (with right foot advanced) unless otherwise specified. But the more common or comfortable form is the Hidari Jodan (left foot advanced) this makes single handed cuts very convenient as explained later. The angle shown is fairly conservative (about forty-five degrees) but this can vary a good deal from almost perpendicular to nearly horizontal. Some schools suggest that the arms be as shown - in a natural position - whilst others allow the elbows to spring out. The body direction can be square or slightly turned to either side. Sometimes the Shinai is held in this line whilst at others it may be canted over or held almost cross-wise. Much of this variation is due to the particular techniques specialized in or according to personal taste. At any rate the only classification made is left, or right foot advanced. An exception to this is the radical Katate Jodan (single hand) postures in which either hand will release its grip on the hilt and the blade is balanced back on this hand which supports the back edge of the blade. Any form of Jodan completely opens the front attack line and the student must have a good sense of timing and outmatch his opponent if he is to take any advantage.

Gedan-no-kamae (low posture)
Gedan is still used to some extend and in this case the attack line is opened by dropping the point. In some variations the Sinai may be turned off to either side and Gedan is in itself an invitation to attack the head. The posture is defined as when the point drops below horizontal.

Waki-Gamae (side posture)
Waki-gamae has little use in modern Kendo apart from Kata (forms) in that it was originally designed as a Sutemi Waza (sacrifice technique) and such techniques merely result in Aiuchi (double hits) in modern Kendo.

Hasso-kamae (figure of eight posture)
Hasso-kamae is not illustrated but the Shinai is carried almost vertically at either shoulder, so that in combination the two complimentary sides are likened to the Japanese figure eight, or Hachi. These are sometimes referred to as Yo-no-kamae and Inno-kamae, Yo-in being the positive/negative principle (Yinyang in Chinese). Hasso has variations in the Jodan and Chudan positions, the former high above the head and the latter low at the hip and canted backwards. As a minor point Waki-gamae takes what would be the Gedan position of Hasso, except that the blade is reversed.

Hasso-kamae is also a Sutemi Waza and has little use in modern Kendo but with Wakigamae, Gedan, Chudan and Jodan, completes the five fundamental postures.

There are literally dozens of other postures - many very ancient. Some better known ones are the Kasumi-kamae found in low, middle, and high positions in which the arms are crossed over so as to partly conceal the technique; Kasumi means 'mountain mist'. Another variation is the Kongo-kamae in which the blade is held vertically in front of the face. There is a particular phase during which such postures appear attractive to the student but he should not become involved in them. It is, however, as well to learn by experience and it will soon be found that such postures are too restrictive under modern conditions.

The essential posture to concentrate on is the Seigan (natural posture) and this is absolutely essential as a basis for anything else. To enable the hands to grip as naturally as possible it will be noted that the elbows are slightly sprung outwards. The Shinai is exactly in the centre line and the posture should be relaxed and comfortable. An amount of stiffness and awkwardness is inevitable at first but if no effort is made the position cannot be achieved with ease at a later date.

Fundamentals of Kendo I : Shisei

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Ability and progress in Kendo is said to consist of some eighty per cent posture and only twenty per cent technique. In Kendo we are not merely attempting to hit the opponent, but to deliver a correct technique in a specified manner. From this viewpoint Kendo has much in common with shooting, since both posture and breathing are of importance. But the situation is more complex in Kendo; both attacker and target are very likely to be in motion. Aiming has little to do with Kendo and we do not even watch the target as we cut. Aim develops quite naturally if left to itself. One does not make a fully conscious effort when reaching to pick up an object and in the same way the precise target areas may be easily struck immediately by the novice, providing that he is not inhibited by the concept of aiming, or it being particularly difficult.

Shisei (general posture and carriage)

Shisei forms the foundation and platform from which all actions must spring and the techniques will only be as stable as the base provided. The simple way to view the repertoire of techniques is as each being the spoke of a wheel. To one side branch the purely aggressive techniques and to the other the more passive techniques. The waiting condition should be in the centre, where a free adoption of other techniques can be made with equal facility depending on circumstances. Any intellectual planning or concentration on one aspect will inhibit the technique at the crucial moment. The basic posture should therefore express the neutral and natural condition of the human being and this applies equally; both externally and internally.

The hips and shoulders should be square, the spine and head erect with the chin tucked slightly in. The body should be relaxed but firm, neither rigid and tense, nor loose and drooping. Equally the mind should be calm and watchful, but not committed to any specific attitude. Any heavy extreme is bad and it must be remembered that each negative expression includes a little positive expression within itself and vice-versa.

The natural physique of a human being is shown by an upright spine and head whilst excessive egoism results in hunched shoulders and rigidity without suppleness. The shoulders should therefore fall downwards to their natural position and the body-weight dropped to the Chushin (centre of gravity) just below the navel, and the general feeling of balance carried in this area. Balance is of more importance in Kendo than in the other Budo arts in that the student has no contact with his opponent to aid or assist his own balance. The student must act and move in a completely independent fashion, automatically harmonizing with the opponent's actions but having little control over them.

What we term the Chushin-sen (body centre-line) is an imaginary line which we visualize as passing through nose, navel and striking the floor exactly between the feet. Regardless of changing foot positions or widening the stance the Chushin-sen must be kept straight to maintain
balance. This line is important as related to technique and in most cases the movement of the sword follows this line.

Shisei can be simply regarded as the basic posture of the upper torso and head in relations to floor and hips. In Kendo the basic Shisei should hold true, regardless of the movements or position of arms and legs at any given moment. Naturally enough, the position of Shisei is very similar to meditation posture and known for thousands of years in the East as the ideal and natural positioning of torso and head. One should not be confused by different circumstances in other Budo arts which demand variations due to the different techniques. Essentially the Shisei is the same.

Aikido Basic Principles

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If you can imagine that you are like a spinning top and if someone or something attacks you, they will fly off from you and not be able to enter into your body. In Aikido all movements must be 'circular' - not 'triangular'. Thus if you are spinning like a top and your opponent is on the outside, he is controlled not by strength but by your movement. At the same time your body and mind must be relaxed. We then have a posture which is completely alert.

Always practise with good feeling and spirit. An excessive amount of talking on the mat is a waste of time. Your breathing should be through your nose with your mouth closed. By this method you will learn to control your breathing. This will in time enable you to practise at least three hours a week. At the leading clubs in this country, most pupils practise five hours a week and Dan grades ten hours a week. At the Aikikai, they have a system whereby the pupils live in and devote their lives to Aikido. They train up to six hours a day for seven days a week. After a certain number of years - usually ten - they are sent out as apostles of Aikido to teach the Art to all parts of the world.

Dress of Aikido

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The Aikido dress varies according to whether one is a Dan or Kyu grade. All Kyu grades wear trousers, jacket and belt of the Kimono style. These clothes are suitable for the art because of the freedom of movement and the strength of material. Dan grades wear Hakamas. This dress has been kept from the old days in Japan when the Samurai used to wear them. The dress has the other advantage that it teaches the student to move properly by keeping the feet closer to the mat.

Cleanliness is very important in Aikido as well as the other fighting arts. Not only is it very important to keep your body and clothes clean but also your mind. Aikido's aim is to make harmony and this will not be achieved if one person in the Dojo is clean and another dirty. You will find that no one will want to practise with the dirty club member. This can cause bad feeling in the Dojo. Harmony will thus disappear.

In Aikido toe and finger nails can be very dangerous so these should be kept trimmed. When stepping on to the mat, the student should bow to it. This is to give thanks to the mat because without it one would not be able to practise. Therefore we respect it for being there and it teaches us not to take things for granted.

Slippers should always be worn to the edge of the mat and when they are removed one should step straight onto the mat. This prevents any dirt or grit getting onto the mat. One should never walk on a mat wearing ordinary shoes.

When practising try not to have the same partner all the time as you will find that you get too used to each other. Everyone is different in build, weight and height. Your techniques becomes more adjustable if you change your partners.

One should not have stupid strength contests with each other or fool about. Try to help to understand each other and help one's partner wherever possible.

Aikido Spirit

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You will find that the more you practise Aikido, the more the self-defence aspect will become of secondary importance. By the physical practice of Aikido we are trying to find the truth by technique. If one's technique is not correct or true, then one's way of life is false and one can never be fully confident of oneself.

I think that material things can only bring happiness up to a point but it is the deeper inner happiness that we are seeking and Aikido is one way of finding this. You will find that through Aikido practice your mind will become more positive in deciding matters. As you can imagine, when one is practising and someone attacks you, one has little time to decide what technique to use but one moves the way that one's feeling takes you, either positive or negative. This attack is the same as a problem. If it is an easy one, one can go positively into it. On the other hand if it is a difficult one, one moves one way first to get out of the way and then considers it. But if you hesitate you are lost. It is no good saying afterwards that one should have done such and such a thing. Naturally we all make mistakes. This is a good thing, but one must try and learn from them.

This is why to find the 'way' we must always continue to practise our technique and try to put our mistakes right. This is also why Aikido is so interesting as there is no end to it. One never stops learning and there is always something new to learn and improve.

I have been asked by people if I am not afraid of the wrong person learning the art and gaining knowledge which could in some circumstances be dangerous.

But I know that it takes three years to become proficient at Aikido and if the mind is bad and the intentions evil the technique and the Aikido power will not come out. I believe that if one puts sincerity into the art then good will come out. So I feel that no person with evil intentions can ever find this natural movement. If they use Aikido for bad reasons then they will only destroy themselves.

I have known students who have started Aikido in order to use any knowledge they acquire out of Dojo to change their intentions. They become responsible citizens and one has the satisfaction that Aikido has changed their whole character and way of life. They are grateful for what Aikido has done for them.

Aikido is for everyone - not just for the few.

Aikido Grading

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To assess the student's ability in Aikido, he or she has to take an examination before a Dan Grade (Black Belt). In this examination, the students with their partners go through the techniques that have been taught. These techniques have been laid down in the grading syllabus. This applies for all the Kyu grades up to 1st Kyu.

If a pupil is trying for a Black Belt then he can only be graded by a 4th Dan or above. This method has been laid down by the Aikikai, the world centre of Aikido. All Black Belts who have been graded by Aikikai teachers receive a diploma from Japan. It is a great honour to receive one of these as there are only fifteen British students who hold them.

Do not forget that there is a lot of hard work before one reaches this standard. The usual time is three years based on two practices a week. I believe that ninety per cent of people who practise Aikido could arrive at the Black Belt stage if they had the strength of mind and determination to keep up their practice.

It is not so much the practice that is the difficult part but the getting down to the club. For instance, the pupil may return from work on a cold evening, have his dinner and afterwards sit by the fire.

It is one of the hardest things to get oneself out of the chair and to get down to the club for training. This is where the mind must be strong and control the body. This dedication is a part of the training and discipline which must go with Aikido.

Try to adapt Aikido to everyday life and you will understand more easily the true principle and feeling of this wonderful art and more easily progress up the grades towards your goal.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Different way of practicing Aikido

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1. To practise with one partner. This is usually the way for beginners and uses the forms as laid down. Once you understand the basic form then try to add more movement to it.

2. The next stage is for three people to practise. This gives two students against one so as to provide a more continuous practice and teaches you to react more quickly to the attack.

Sometimes practise gently - other times practise hard. When I say hard I do not mean with strength but by non-stop practise with your partner making strong attacks on you continually. When attacking, make sure that your attack is true. Otherwise, you give your partner a false impression and this will not help him one bit as it will give him a false sense of the movement. If your partner cannot escape your attack then it is his responsibility. Do not get upset if your partner catches you off-guard. Just put it down to good experience.

Next try three people against you with all three attacking you at once. Do not try to make correct techniques but keep your body moving and turning in a circular motion, trying to keep your mind and body relaxed.

Another method practice is for two partners to hold you and for you to try to escape. This practice will show whether you are using strength or not. In the beginning always let your partner hold you but as you progress you should move just before they touch you. Lead their strength with yours. Do not let your Ki power clash with your partners or you will not feel the real sense of Aikido.

Kendo Introduction II

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It is not thought necessary to describe equipment here, since this will be seen clearly enough once training is begun and the same applies to individual Dojo (training hall) regulations. The widespread attitude of behaviour and etiquette in the Budo arts derives from Kendo since it was foremost of such studies in former times. The only Budo are pre-dating Kendo is Kyudo (archery).

Philosophy and semi-religious attitudes, as a universal concept of swordsmanship, is regarded as dating from the sixteenth century although the broad field of techniques and movements can be traced to the ninth century and the introduction of the modern Japanese sword. The term Kendo (Sword-Way) has only been in general usage since 1895 and prior to this many terms were in use at various periods. Whilst Kendo derives directly from swordsmanship it must be understood that the wearing of padded armour and of the bamboo Shinai or practice sword changes many aspects, both physical and mental. Swords are still sometimes used in Kata or preset 'Forms' but the real appreciation of the 'heart' of Kendo is only gained in direct combat and is thus very difficult to understand in modern times.

Kyu (Student) and Dan (Step) grades are awarded in Kendo for proficiency and are the exact equivalent of other Budo art grades, except that no belt or distinguishing mark is worn. It is easy to assess a student's ability by the way he sits, stands or moves about the Dojo. Grading is a relatively modern idea and as a general rule not much attention is paid to this. It is normal fashion to ask the grade of a strange student prior to, or after, practice but a more common question is merely how long he has been training.

As a very broad guide to progress the grade of Sankyo (3rd Kyu) normally means the student has probably trained two or three evenings per week over about a year. The grade of Shodan (1st Dan) may take anything from three to five years and progress through the Dan ranks becomes progressively more difficult. The average European could expect to pass a number of years equivalent to the next Dan rank taken. Mastery is generally accepted as being 6th Dan or above and even in Japan may take from fifteen to twenty years unless the student is particularly brilliant. Only three or four Judan or 10th Dan exist at any one period and these are elderly gentlemen who display not only technical ability but possess very real human qualities as well. It has not been uncommon to find Kendo Masters in their nineties who train five hours every day retaining agility and skill.

Grade refers to a certain level of technical proficiency and is not necessarily relevant to ability or the understanding of Kendo. Since we have competition without any direct physical contact Kendo is predominantly psychological by necessity and since the full personality does not develop until about the age of forty there is no noticeable drop in ability with advancing age. In pre-war years, when a deeper study was made, the Champions were always at least in their fifties and Kenshiro Abbe Sensei tells of his own teacher at the Busen College, who, at the age of seventy-five, could not be touched on the body by any young students or even young teachers.

source : internet article

Kendo Introduction I

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This section on Kendo is more a manual for students than a 'Teach Yourself' attempt. It has been taken for granted that the reader is either a student already or considering starting. True Kendo, in common with older Martial Arts, will lack clarity unless it is practised.

Until the end of the Second World War, the Butokukai (Martial Arts Society) controlled all gradings and teachings and Kenshiro Abbe Sensei was awarded a 6th Dan in Kendo from them, in 1945.

The specific theory or system of Budo (Martial Arts) created by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei is termed Kyu-shin-do and its application is particularly easy to understand through Kendo. Kyu means a sphere, or circle. Shin means the heart, or nexus point and Do means the way or path. There is little space here to deal adequately with this ancient Japanese philosophy but its three fundamental precepts are:

a. Bambutsu Ruten - All things existent in the Universe turn in a constant state of flux.
b. Ritsudo - This motion is rhythmic and smooth.
c. Chowa - All things act in a perfect accord.

Kyu-shin-do is a Japanese equivalent of the Buddhist Karmic cycle especially as far as its application to life is concerned. This is an old Japanese idea but the writer's teacher was the first to grasp its real significance in relation to Budo. To attain perfection in technique means to attain to perfection as a human being and through our studies to become a better person and a useful and positive factor in society.

Kyu-shin-do also states that the accumulation of effort is a steady motion about the radius and centre of gravity and that all things resign to this basic cyclic pattern. The normal perception and focus of awareness in the human being, flies along the outer periphery of existence, events flash past too rapidly for the mind to grasp. By re-discovering the original centre of things, events turn more slowly in perception and the general scheme is more easily viewed. All this refers directly to the original Great Principle of Creation, under which the Universe was first formed. By understanding and harmony with this Principle of God a better purpose of life is brought about. Instead of hopeless repentance or regret for bad things, the human being should strive for good actions.

This does not mean that every student must involve himself in complicated metaphysics but these laws of Material Nature still exist and cannot but become clear during the course of study. Kendo in itself is a vigorous and healthy activity, developing a strong physique and sharp mind. There is no reason why it cannot be practised and enjoyed purely and simply as a sport, or interesting game; even just for exercise. Kendo also has within itself the capacity to include the deepest significance of life and the highest goal of human conception. The student should concentrate firstly on the purely physical aspect of training, since interest in other aspects will occur naturally as they become problems.

The student involved in the sheer physical problems of training will scarcely be aware of his mind, but once the body is reasonably under control it will be seen that the mind is the real bar to progress, for one reason or another. The human being consists of both a spiritual and physical side. Too much concentration on one aspect will lead to an unbalanced life and the student should attempt to develop both parts equally. The student who is too prone to think, should train harder and with greater regularity whilst the student more sluggish of thought should strive to improve his mind and increase his intelligence by thinking things out, and reading.

Once past the first initial stages Kendo is a battle with oneself to catch the mind and force it to obey the will. Over the years the student will pass through periods of elation and depression, keen enthusiasm and lack of interest. The main object is to overcome all difficulties and to press forward with a firm mind and iron will. The student who misses classes because he cannot be bothered to attend, feels tired or thinks that he is getting nowhere has defeated himself from the very beginning. The senior grades and masters are merely those who have had the tenacity of purpose to continue in the face of any difficulty.

source : internet article 

Judo History

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Judo as a martial art came into existence in 1882 being derived from the much older techniques of attack and defence called ju-jitsu. Before the advent of judo or more properly Kodokan Judo there existed some twenty independent ju-jitsu schools. A young Japanese man Jigoro Kano, wanting to be able to handle some bigger bullying companions, decided to join one of the ju-jitsu schools.

He studied the techniques of various schools for several years. Finally in 1882 he established his own which he called the Kodokan and instead of using the word ju-jitsu used judo instead. One of the reasons for choosing a different name for his school was that with theordinance of 1871 forbidding Samurai to carry swords the martial arts fell into decline and then disrepute. Some ju-jitsu experts of Kano's time were rogues and bullies and ju-jitsu acquired a low reputation. Kano, not wishing to inherit this, began his school with a new name.

Kodokan judo was not just a rehash of ju-jitsu techniques. Kano selected the good points of each ju-jitsu school and with his own fresh ideas and innovations turned an old martial art into a new system of physical culture and mental training. There was much rivalry between the new Kodokan school and the ju-jitsu men and four years after its foundation the Kodokan had a public match with the top ju-jitsu school. It was an overwhelming victory for judo with the Kodokan winning nearly every match.

The techniques of judo have slowly been streamlined and modified over the years with some new ones being added and old ones on account of their inefficiency or danger being eliminated. With judo becoming an international sport during the last ten years rules governing contests have been formulated to make it safe for competition. Nevertheless, the essence of judo - throws, strangles, joint-locks and hold-downs - makes it an excellent system of self-defence and

History of Karate

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The origins of karate are somewhat obscure. The most popular tradition traces them to the arrival in China of the fierce Indian monk Bodhidharma, or Daruma taishi, to give him his Japanese name. He is said to have arrived in Canton in AD 520 and he was also the First patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China.

Bodhidharma imposed the most severe discipline on the monks under him at the monastery of Shaolin. His students and their successors became famous for their physical prowess as well as their mental discipline and Shaolin was to give its name to one of the foremost schools of Chinese boxing. Shaolin boxing was introduced into the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the main island, in either the fifteenth or the sixteenth century.

These were tough times in the Ryukyus. A succession of tyrannies, for their own preservation, had made the possession of weapons by any member of the civilian population a state offence. Understandably this boosted the interest in unarmed combat, producing a system called Okinawa-te, a mixture of Chinese and indigenous influences.

There were in fact many different 'schools' of Okinawa-te, each one carefully guarding its secrets from the others. Secrets had also to be kept from the ruling classes and from any individual who might have misused them. Therefore, all training was carried out in the early morning or late at night, or else behind locked doors. No beginner was accepted until his good character had been established.

Thus modern karate is the outcome of centuries of interchange between China, the Ryukyus and Japan. It only recently came to be openly taught to the public first in Okinawa and later in Japan. During 1917 and 1922 the late Gichin Funakoshi, President of the Okinawa Bushokwai, demonstrated his powers in Tokyo. Funakoshi was to become Supreme Instructor of the new Japan Karate Association and by 1935 karate clubs were established at most of the leading universities in Japan.

The contact with intellectual life at university was invigorating for karate. New techniques were developed, old ones improved, and elements which had always been regarded as mysterious and supernatural were regarded in a more rational light. It must be remembered, however, that
karate students now more than ever derive moral and spiritual strength from their training.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Background of Aikido

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Aikido is a scientific form of self-defence created over fifty years ago by Master Morihei Ueshiba. Aikido was a secret known only to a relatively few privileged Japanese up until as recently as 1948. The requirements to gain entrance into the inner chambers of the Aikido gymnasium and to learn Aikido's art and philosophy were many including at least two recommendations from well-known, respected citizens of Japan.

Aikido is a combination of many martial arts including ju-jitsu, Kendo and Karate. Most Budo (military arts) originated from a kind of physical fitness programme, developed into selfdefence arts and then on to refined Budo.

A physical fitness programme may be compared to preventive medicine programmes and prophylactics. If we move our body adequately and if the movement agrees with the 'natural laws', we still have a well-conditioned body and will not be affected so easily by disease. When we consider various physical fitness programmes we will soon discover the ideal of Aikido. The flowing flexibility and the importance of a stable balance agree with the 'laws of nature'. The aim
of Aikidoists is complete self-control. When we have self-control, we have a posture which is completely alert. By exercising our whole body we approach improved health.

In Aikido, the techniques related to each part of the body are necessarily related to the whole. There are no radical techniques which use strength suddenly or immediately cease using power. Here lies the secret of Aikido in keeping a healthy body. The exercise of the body in this way will lead to better health.

The movement of Aikido is natural and is without the physical strain demanded by other combat arts. Aikido provides tremendous range movement on the study of balance, posture and most important - relaxation. For this reason Aikido can be practised by members of either sex, young or old, while it is also a most effective form of self-defence. Aikido has a particular appeal to most people for the way that it builds a mind which you can adapt to everyday life.

source : internet article

The virtues of Aikido training

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The virtues of Aikido training

1. In order to practice Aikido properly :
· You must not forget that all things originate from One Source
· Envelope yourself with love
· Embrace sincerity
2. The practice of Aikido is
· An act of faith
· A belief in the power of nonviolence
· Not a type of rigid discipline or empty asceticism
· A path of follows the principles of nature that must apply to daily living
3. In good Aikido training
· We generate light (wisdom) and heat (compassion) that activate heaven and earth
· Train hard and you will experience the light and warmth of Aikido
· Train more and learn the principles of nature
· Aikido should be practiced from the time you rise to greet the morning sun to the time you retire at night

4. Aikido
· Is good for the health
· Helps you manifest your inner and outer beauty
· Fosters good manners and proper deportment
· Teaches you how to respects others and how not to behave in a rude manner
It is not easy to live up to the ideals of Aikido but we must do so at all costs – otherwise our training is in vain

(Taken from :
Training with the Master, Lesson with Morihei Ueshiba founder of Aikido,
By John Stevens and Walther V. Krenner)