Notes from the Connecticut Seminar

The enthusiasm and energy of the Zenshinkai Aikido Association’s Connecticut seminar was was palpable. Beginning on Friday night, Yanagi Aikido’s mat was brimming with student. The emphasis of the seminar was very much on ‘kihon waza’ and the adaptation of these basic forms to allow for applications of the underlying principles (oyo waza). Throughout the weekend, we returned to three foundational concepts again and again – committed attacks, deliberate body movement and clear balance-taking.

The pace Noble Sensei set for the seminar was an aggressive one. Blessed with an unusually warm March weekend, all found themselves pleasantly sweaty from the continued exertion. We moved along quickly, building technique upon technique, moving from grabs to strikes and back again. As the seminar continued along, the intensity of training became most evident in the grateful, but decidedly quiet intermissions between classes. Students chose rest over chatter – testimony to a rigorous workout.

As the hours of training accrued, students inevitably came up against those familiar barriers we all practice to move beyond – the fatigue, the soreness, and of course the overwhelming confusion of having so much Aikido thrown at us in such a short period of time. Yet the benches remained largely empty except during breaks and students new and old pushed on.

Morning zazen saw an equal commitment of students as the Zendo was set up two rows deep on either side. For many, this was a first experience with zazen and the nature of this training set the stage nicely for the dynamic Aikido that would come later in the day.

The seminar was also a time of good friendship. The group dinner was a time of friendly conversation, hearty laughter and noisy children playing games in the background. Friends enjoyed a much needed rest and refueling together after a long day’s training. In particular a debt of gratitude to Null Sensei for traveling all the way from River Valley Aikikai in Arkansas. And of course to Johnson Sensei and the members of Jikishinkan Dojo whose steadfast support of Connecticut events is always greatly appreciated. There were also to a handful of participants from outside the ZAA, some old friends, some new faces, who reminded us that our extended Aikido community is broad and far reaching.

We look forward to seeing you at the next event.

ZAA Kangeiko 2012: A Review

ZAA Kangeiko 2012: A Review

On January 12th I helped ring in 2012 with the very first Kangeiko Winter Training of Zenshinkai Aikido Association (ZAA.) Throughout this four-day event, spirits were focused and commitment was high, providing a respectable platform for intense training. It was a fine, fresh beginning to a slightly new, yet traditional approach.

River Valley Aikikai Dojo of Van Buren, Arkansas, set a high standard when hosting this event. It was clearly well planned. Visitors’ needs were met from every angle, yet dojo members did not sacrifice mat time–an impressive example, indeed! For this reason, it was a pleasure to witness River Valley Aikikai receive it’s Japanese name, Mujushinkan (meaning unfrozen mind, mind of infinite mobility.)

Throughout the weekend, high quality instruction helped participants polish many fascinating details and nuances. Significant improvement was made by all. Class was structured where a demo would take place, followed by practice. After assessing where improvement was needed within the group, a second demo would then take place, accompanied by extensive, highly detailed explanation. The details, insightful as they were, were a springboard for growth throughout the event.

Much of the technique had a dynamic quality that was described as unique to our lineage. Everything was similar yet slightly different, with a theme of power in the hips, effortless throws, and side falls. My dojo cho, also a member of the ZAA teaching committee, described the entire mix of demonstration as, “an exact replica of Toyoda Sensei’s style”, which he clearly desires to pass on to all of us.

Weapons work was also a signicant focus throughout the weekend. During our paired bokken work, one detail new to me was found within the block of a bokken shomenuchi strike via stepping forward to slice uke’s forearm; this rapid block was accomplished by nage actually falling forward towards uke. As the fall begins, nage’s feet step in, and thus nage meets uke’s forearm more rapidly. I had done this block before, but this time it was different–new detail made it a surprisingly aggressive defense.

A number of expectations within the ZAA were clearly defined and welcomed, during this event, as well. Numerous meetings and class-time speeches made the organization’s emphasis quite clear: personal responsibility, exemplary behavior, committed mat time, and desire for advancement of this art and our lineage are required; growth and life balance must be maintained as a responsibility to our training partners, our families, and all others around us.

Overall, this seminar set the groundwork for a very positive, exciting future. We are heading in a direction that is clean, bright, and smooth; one that will allow us to polish ourselves diligently. All that is needed is our commitment and sincerity.

-Alison Lincoln, shodan
Jikishinkan Dojo, Brooklyn, NY