Aikido Iwama Uchideshi

This Blog originally tracked a three month period during which time I undertook training in Iwama under the supervision of Nemoto Sensei. We also trained at the Shibu Dojo, O'Sensei's Dojo in Iwama located in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan.
I have returned this time for a shorter three week stint in January 2011.

Third day keiko

Two classes held today - evening training at Tsukuba

Morning class
Katate dori kokyu nage

Nemoto sensei's special buki waza

Evening class

Second day keiko

Three classes held today - midday training at Mito and evening training at Tsukuba

Morning class
Sankyo and yonkyo from katate dori.

On sankyo urawaza make sure you are parallel to your partner before performing the spinning part. On imote use three steps to pin, where 1) is stepping around 2) is step back on the other leg 3) is the pin.

Afternoon class
Irimi nage 3 breakouts shomen uchi on the move

Evening class
Ikkyo omote and uruwaza and nikkyo urawaza only from morote dori. Ki musubi no tachi - a blending technique which is separate from the five kumi tachi

First evening keiko

This is a summary of the points we picked up from the class.

Tai no henko
  • Offer your hand flat out (facing the floor) as it invites someone to attack whereas your palm facing the wall doesn't.
  • On finishing the technique make sure your fingers are spread wide apart with your hands almost parallel to the floor
Morote dori kokyu ho
  • Enter deeper by putting your front foot's toes by the side of your partner's middle part of their foot
  • Use full hip rotation and extended rotation of your arms (past your hips)
Ikkyo imote waza
  • Extend yourself by being directly over your partner's arm keeping it near to your knee
  • Get both knees down to your partner's arm at the same time when approaching the floor
Ikkyo uru waza
  • Make sure you hold your partner's thumb with your thumb
  • Make all movements in all techniques flowing otherwise there is opportunity for your partner to grab your feet

All in all a really good class with lots of dame's which we thought was great because it showed that Sensei perceived that we were trying.

Darn you Google maps . . .

After a decent sleep in the hotel and a light breakfast we made our way to the train station and got to Iwama in an hour or so on the Joban line from Kashiwa. As we arrived we thought we'd walk to Aiki house and trusted Google maps to guide us, but unfortunately we ended up outside Sensei Nemoto's actual house! After a couple of phone calls we got Sensei to meet us at the train station and we made our way to Aiki house which as described by Peter Sensei was 'head to the hills as you get out of the station', not head to the fields, walk along the 'dog's leg bend' and cross the rail tracks with a 100 kilos worth of luggage... Sensei showed us the house and explained some of the house rules. We settled in and made our way to the supermarket to get some lunch, having more fun with Google translate trying to figure out if the homogenised milk was pastuerised as well. Am still not sure what we ended up buying, but it tastes like full cream and makes a decent cup of tea. Since Sensei said evening training would start at 7pm we had to time for walk about. So we went on the other side of the railway track and made our way to the Jinja shrine which is where the festival held on April 29th will be held.
Walking past Saito Sensei's house we noticed some students wearing hakama so we walked over to say hello. We introduced ourselves to Sensei Magnus from Sweden who comes under Sensei Ulf's dojo and he was kind enough to let us in the dojo so we could place the sake which we bought at the shrine.
Feeling accomplished and rather fortunate we headed back to Aiki house to prepare for evening keiko. On his 3rd outing to Iwama, Senpai Gates had the pleasure of Trevor, Justin and Kelvin joining him. The entries made in this blog will be a composite of our experiences and thoughts. Justin

Arrival 3rd Trip

First night in Tokyo Evening meal and a few drinks.

1st Kyu Grading

Tomorrow I take my 1st kyu grading. Although my techniques are not flawless I think that they are of quite a decent standard most likely worthy of a first kyu status. Hopefully my instructor will agree. As this will be my last grading before shodan, this is likely a transition into some serious training building up over the next 6 - 12 months towards that all elusive shodan.

Every dojo, every instructor is different holding up a different standard at different grading levels. Fortunately the world of Iwama Ryu is consistent in both technique and standards. My understanding is that at Shodan level the test participant should demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental principles and techniques, clearly showing the basics.

Much like passing your driving test you only really learn to drive once you have passed the test having gained a basic ability to control the car in a safe manner and can prove you understand the rules of the road.

I am not going to concern myself too much with thinking about it, as I once heard 'with one eye on the next grading that only leaves one eye for the training'. But it is natural to occasional ponder the futures possibilities.

Sayonara Keiko

Tonights class was taught my Watahiki Sensei, I believe that Watahiki Sensei is now in his 80's or at least late 70's. His high falls give us all hope, that A, we still have time to learn, and B: that it is possible to keep going with vigor and enthusiasm.

He has quite a unique way of getting his point across and will grab peoples arms, hands, whatever to get them to do the technique more correctly. I have to say sometimes with absolute beginners you can say, "put your left foot there" and point one inch from the spot, and yet somehow this translates as 'put my right foot somewhere over here'. So the tactic of physically moving their body for them sometimes saves time and frustration. I remember when I trained as a very small child, I think I must have been 5-6, that the instructor had little feet shapes that he used to place on the ground to show us where our feet should go. This was only used once or twice, but as I remember it worked quite well, for small children. You could lay out a pattern, numbering and colouring them, for a technique say katatedori shihonge and get the kids to follow along. I am sure there are better ways to teach kids, and the emphasis is totally different, but its a thought.

Tomorrow I leave for Tokyo, where I will have a couple of days to do a bit of touristy stuff. A few days to relax and ponder over everything that I have learned, I am not talking about techniques as such, more what the overall experience has taught me. Before I leave I will do a big clean up of the house top to bottom, as I have said before Nemoto Sensei doesn't get on the case of his uchideshi but trusts that they will do what is expected of them, what is fair and reasonable.

I have had a great time in Iwama, practiced Saito's Bukiwaza with arguably one of the worlds best exponents, trained in O'Sensei's old dojo, with great supervision. Prayed and chanted at the Aiki-Jinja. Met some great new people, trained quite hard (my feet are pretty sore), I have some new techniques and Bukiwaza practices to take home with me. Overall despite it was a short trip only three weeks, I have learned a lot, a lot about my own motivations, and goals for my Aikido path. I am very lucky to have a supportive partner who positively encourages me to chase my dreams, and make them a reality.

Final Keiko with Nemoto Sensei

It was a the final Keiko with Nemoto Sensei. Nemoto sensei had me go through the 1st kyu grading, ikkyo-gokkyo suwariwaza, and three ways from each group: koshinage, iriminage, kokyunage, kotegaishi, ushiro, hanmi handachi, jo dori, tachi-dori, of tnken-dori. We didn't cover kaiten nage, men-nage, juji garami. Not sure if these are not on the test or whether we were running out of time.

Sensei said if it were a real test I would have needed better kiai, and to have performed the techniques more crisply and with more vigor. It was an unexpected "mock test" and I knew it wasn't a real test so challenged myself a little bit and didn't go for necessarily the easiest choices or put much ki into it. I wouldn't have passed me on the basis of my own performance.

7 Ken Suburi

7 Ken Suburi

This is me doing a little Suburi practice. I can see a few things to work on !!