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E-news Feb. 5, 2018

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Thanks to all who joined us for the annual Dojo Winter Party on the weekend. And special thanks to Aubrie and Gail, who again this year were the perfect hosts.

Unfortunately our numbers this year were somewhat reduced by colds and flu, but we had a sizable gathering, some great food and drink and a lot of fun. (For those of you who are not well, have a speedy recovery!)

The photos are on Flickr.

E-news, Jan. 26 2018

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Annual dojo winter party

Our annual winter party will be held at Aubrie’s home on Sat., Feb. 3. It is a short drive from the dojo. The details have been emailed to members and are posted in the dojo. There is also a signup sheet for the potluck in the dojo (reminder – no pork dishes). All members including kids, as well as family and friends, are invited. Hope you can attend… It should be a nice break during the February winter doldrums! Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions, or if you need a ride to Aubrie’s.

2018 schedule

The February schedule will be posted soon. A few things to look for:

Thursday practices will now consist of one, 1.5-hour class starting at 7 PM. Yumi-sensei and Tom-sensei will alternate in teaching it. If you have a scheduling problem, e.g. will arrive late or have to leave early, let us know.

Tuesdays will continue as two one-hour classes. Since we have a number of senior tests coming up this year, the second class will be a test-practice class. Yudansha test candidates are expected to attend, and others may attend with the permission of the instructor. While some attention will be paid to theory and the details of technique, the main purpose of this class is for test candidates to develop a higher level of practice, improving body movement, speed and fluidity and building stamina.

Saturdays: We will switch to jo (short staff) practice in February, starting with the basics. If you are interested in jo, this would be a good time to start. You must bringyour own jo… we have some for sale.

Seminars

Clyde Takeguchi-shihan is teaching a seminar this weekend at Aikido Shugyo downtown. He is an excellent teacher and we encourage you to consider attending. While we will hold classes as usual that weekend, there are classes Sunday morning downtown that don’t conflict with our schedule.

More information is becoming available about this year’s annual summer camp in Calgary, to be led by Osawa-shihan. Here is a message from Dan Jones-sensei, one of the organizers:

“On behalf of the Calgary area CAF Dojos I would like to invite all of you to the 2018 CAF Summer Camp in Calgary with Osawa Shihan. The camp will run from Saturday June 23 to Friday June 29, 2018. Our venue will be at The University of Calgary. We have secured block bookings until May 22, 2018 with the combined resources of ‘Summer Residence’ at the University as well as with their on-site ‘Hotel Alma’ to accommodate different budgets. We are confirming arrangements and 2018 costs with the University and will post registration and further information on the CAF website shortly. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Steve Erickson or Dan Jones.”

We strongly encourage all students to attend if possible. There will be opportunities for yudansha testing.

The CAF fall seminar to be taught by Osawa-shihan will be held over a weekend  in Toronto in the Sept.-Oct. time frame. We will keep you updated. There will be opportunities for yudansha testing at this event. We encourage you in the strongest possible terms to attend, and as a sponsor of this seminar, we will be looking for help from our members to organize and manage it.

Students considering testing at either the summer camp or the fall seminar should confirm this with Jim.

Kids’ classes

We had a situation recently where an instructor and a child member were alone in the dojo at the start of class. Strictly for reasons of liability, class will not start unless there are at least three people in the dojo. If you drop your kid off for class and nobody else besides the instructor is present, please wait in the lounge at least until another student, parent or instructor arrives. Thanks for your attention to this.

Hombu New Year’s promotions

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

We were honoured to see two of our members named in the Hombu New Year’s promotions list… Aubrie Appel and Pascal Dennis, both promoted to nidan (2nd degree black belt). Congratulations!

Sincere congratulations also go to Rob Carroll of Aikido Tendokai (our sister dojo downtown) on his promotion to rokudan (6th degree).

Other friends and colleagues promoted to rokudan included David Yates (Kanata), Hillary Dawson (Victoria), Marcel Lavigne (Montreal) and Steve Erickson (Calgary).

We were also very pleased to see several other Canadian Aikido Federation promotions: yondan (4th degree): Nan Yien Chin, Masaru Matsubara and David Bursey; sandan (3d degree): Chris Rosenquist; nidan: Theresa Wojtasiewicz and Ed Wass; and shodan (1st degree): Lorraine Schubert and Diane Smeltzer. Congratulations to all!

E-news, Jan. 5, 2018

Friday, January 5th, 2018

New Year’s class, 2018

We would like to thank everyone for coming out to the New Year’s practice. It was great to see so many old and new friends practicing together so enthusiastically on the mats.

It reminded me how much a dojo is a community of people — not a building or an institution. It should be a mix of young and old, male and female, senior and junior, long-term and new members practicing together and learning from each other. A dojo is not just a group of 30+-year old black belts… everybody is important to the community.

New members

On that note, we are a bit under-represented in beginners at present, especially females and youths. Please invite anyone you think might be interested to come for a free trial class. This is New Year’s resolution time, and you may have heard friends or colleagues say they want to get in shape or try something new. If someone joins the dojo as a result of your recommendation, you will get a one-month extension to your dues!

Promotions

The list of New Year’s promotions made by Doshu (leader of Aikido) will be published while Yumi and I are out of town. I believe that two of our members have received promotions, both to nidan, so I am going to jump the gun and announce them.

Pascal Dennis is a long-time Toronto-area Aikidoka and has practiced in several local dojos. He has been a shodan for 35 years (training irregularly due to the challenges of running his own business). He joined us three years ago with his son Matthew and is a positive influence and a great partner on the tatami.

Aubrie Appel unfortunately missed the new year’s class, so we did not get a chance to congratulate him in person. He has been a member for 20 years, starting as a beginner and training steadily and sincerely. He now teaches the regular class on Monday at noon. He has also agreed to host our annual winter party… details coming very soon!

For your information, these promotions are made based on four criteria:

  • The student must have the required level of proficiency for the rank
  • Usually, he/she is 55 years old or older
  • He/she must have some medical condition that prevents him/her from safely training for or taking the examination, and
  • The promotion must be endorsed by the Canadian Aikido Federation Examination Committee and Osawa-shihan.

Schedule

Some minor changes to the dojo’s schedule will be made in February. The only one for certain at this point is that the Thursday night classes will be joined into one, 1.5-hour class. Other minor changes are being considered as well.

If you have any suggestions for changes to the schedule that might benefit you personally or that you think would help the dojo as a whole, please don’t hesitate to make them now or voice any concerns or questions.

Regards,

Jim Barnes
Aikido Hokuryukai

E-news, Dec. 12 2017

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Greetings to all members and friends of Aikido Hokuryukai. Here is some news about the dojo.

The class schedule for December is now online. Our holiday closures this year will be Dec. 24, 25, 26 and 31, as well as Jan. 1. All classes on those days are cancelled. Enjoy the festive season with your friends and family!

Our annual New Year’s class will be held on Thursday, Jan. 4 from 7 until approximately 8:15 PM. That will be followed by a short reception. This is an important date in the Aikido calendar, representing a chance to make a fresh commitment to training. Please make a point of attending!

We are starting to plan for our annual winter party in January. Please let me know as soon as possible if you are willing to host it this year. We will work out an appropriate date later on in January with you, once we have a show of interest.

Osawa-sensei will be teaching CAF seminars twice this year, during the summer in Calgary and during the fall in Toronto. We are co-sponsors of the Toronto seminar. The final dates will be confirmed shortly. Some members are approaching the number of days of practice required to test for their next levels. Please consult Yumi or Jim if you are considering testing for a yudansha (black belt) rank in 2018.

Best wishes for the holidays.

Jim Barnes
Aikido Hokuryukai

A good attack

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Sharing a Facebook posting from an old Aikido friend, Kim Taylor, SDK Martial Arts Supplies.

A good attack

Aikido last night, and two things came up right away. Aikido is not self defence, and it is not fighting. It’s not even competition. If you think of it in those ways you will be missing the point. There are lots of self defense courses out there, some of them very good. There are also lots and lots of judo and MMA and BJJ clubs around, so why try to get apple juice from an orange?

Can you use aikido for self defence? Of course you can, it’s a martial art. You can use a screwdriver for a dirk, a garbage can for a shield, the proverbial broomstick for a jo. That doesn’t mean that’s what they are for.

Aikido is the iaido of the grappling world, it’s where you can perform the whole of the art without modified weaponry (techniques). It’s where you can go freeform without fear of hurting each other, using techniques that, if you were competing, would have to be modified. Kotegaeshi is dangerous, Sankyo is dangerous, Nikkyo is dangerous, we’ve all suffered damage to our wrists from these things. The pins can roll a shoulder joint out of the socket quite easily. Thankfully, we don’t compete with aikido, we cooperate to allow each other to practice.

How do we do that? By paying attention and never opposing force with force. You counter force with movement and movement with avoidance. Last evening I heard, across the dojo, “oh, I’m holding on, I can’t do the technique, you grab me”. Nonsense, you can do the technique, you just won’t be doing standard aikido. Our attackers hold on to us so that they can let go at their correct moment, in order to fall or roll away safely.

Self defence says break that hold and run like hell. Fighting says break that hold and hurt them. Aikido says that uke hangs on and keeps hanging on until nage throws him.

Without a good uke you can’t do nice aikido. It’s hard to cooperate with a beginner uke, you need someone who is skilled to work full speed at the edge of control. You get to the edge of a beginner’s control really fast.

A good uke works at it, has good rolls, fast feet, a good body sense of where they are in the room. Good uke do not crash into other students or the wall. Most folks think it’s nage who throws uke but it’s really uke who leaves the technique when he feels it’s done, it’s uke who stays just ahead of damage in order to draw nage into good habits.

There are no pain throws in aikido. There are painful throws, but that’s not the same thing.

An over-helpful uke falls down way too soon and so we get woo-woo aikido. Some seniors may even convince themselves that their technique is magical. Watch those magical folks and you’ll see a couple of uke who are really, really good. A good uke makes nage look good.

Good aikido (on both sides) becomes a joyous challenge (I won’t say competition but that’s what it is, a caring, careful competition using full control, just as a weapons kata can become) at the edge of the cliff. No falling over, one or the other will snatch their partner back before that happens. Can you imagine the sensitivity that requires, the attention?

What, exactly does uke do? Well he doesn’t just punch and stand there waiting for nage to drag him around, he attacks, he continues to move and attack toward nage’s center. A good uke freezes nage to the mat if nage tries to come straight back on his force. A good uke moves ahead of the technique, but doesn’t “break” it. Nage should feel uke at the end of the kotegaeshi, he should feel the bones and tendons at the edge of locking up. This is how a good uke trains a beginner, by giving him that feeling so that the beginner won’t then turn around and damage another beginner.

Uke should understand attacking. A punch that doesn’t reach the target isn’t useful. A sword strike that misses requires nothing at all from nage. After ten years or so of weapons training I attended a class where we were doing sword, my partner swung and missed me by a foot. “How come you didn’t do the technique” he said. What technique? Without a strike to the target there is no technique to do.

So do it anyway you say? Not a good idea, training with “helpful” uke will train you into doing stupid things like breaking your posture as you chase the weapon to get hold of his wrist. That break in posture will get you hit on the head when you meet someone who can actually hit, and hit fast. Trust me on this.

There is lots of video out there, watch the superstars of today and the founders of two generations ago. Don’t think of what they are doing as competition or self defence, and don’t watch nage, watch the uke for a change. It’s a whole other art.

It’s a good attack that makes good aikido.

Kim Taylor
Nov 24, 2017

E-news, Nov. 20 2017

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Thanks to everyone who participated in and supported the CAF Examination Committee seminar Nov. 18-19. And a very special thanks to Yumi Nakamura-sensei, who puts much more work into these events than anyone realizes.

We had a great practice and a chance to renew acquaintanceships with some old Aikido friends.

Congratulations to Arunas, who had a successful grading for shodan!

And our appreciation goes to to several Hokuryukai yudansha, who took ukemi in support of some of the test candidates – including those from other dojos.

I took a few snapshots while waiting to take the group photo. They are on Flickr.

Hold the dates: tentative dates are available for Osawa-sensei’s summer camp in Calgary this year…  June 23 to June 29. We will confirm as soon as possible and supply additional information once it is available.

Regards,

Jim Barnes
Aikido Hokuryukai

Enews, Nov. 3 2017

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

This weekend is the Daylight Saving Time change… Remember to set your clocks back by an hour Saturday night at bedtime to be on time for Sunday class!

Congratulations to our most recent successful test candidates, Tibor and Michael L., both passing their nikyu tests. Their hard work paid off!

Yumi and I are just back from Osawa-shihan’s fall seminar in Victoria. It was an extraordinary training opportunity, and it was great to get together again with some old Aikido friends. A week-long seminar with Osawa-shihan is scheduled for Calgary this summer. We strongly encourage everyone to attend, and we will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Victoria seminar: Ishu Ishiyama, Alex Loo, Wil Wong, Osawa-shihan, Yumi, Jim, Pat Olson.

The Canadian Aikido Federation Examination Committee Seminar is slated for Nov. 18-19 at JCCC Aikikai in Toronto. It’ll be a great opportunity to learn and train, and senior tests are scheduled for Saturday. All classes at our dojo, including kids’ classes, are cancelled that weekend. Kids 12 and under can attend the seminar at no charge on Sat., 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and/or Sun. from 12 to 1 p.m. Please let us know if you intend for your kid to attend. Click here for more information.

The November schedule is now online.

A very small number of students still have not paid their annual Canadian Aikido Federation dues. This mandatory payment of $20 is now overdue… please take care of it at your first opportunity.

Let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Comments on training

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The Examinations Committee received the following comments from Osawa-shihan and wished to pass them on to all members, especially instructors.

At seminars and daily practice:

  • Osawa-sensei commented it was important to focus on the basics in training, especially in the beginning. More dynamic practice naturally comes later.
  • He said it is important to emphasize the correct connection between nage and uke.
  • He added that it is very important to keep students moving during practice and not stop them to talk or discuss technique unnecessarily.
  • He said that the technical level he was seeing in the tests was generally improving.

I would like to emphasize:

It is vital that white belts spend most of their time mastering the core techniques: irimi-nage, shiho-nage, kote-gaeshi, kaiten-nage and kokyu-ho. Less time should be spent on other techniques, including koshi-nage and especially kokyu-nage. It is not acceptable that students appear in front of grading panels with an inadequate understanding of the core techniques as applied to all conventional attacks, including proper ma’ai, connection and ukemi.

It is a mistake for students to interrupt their practice with discussion of how a technique “works.” It is much more important that they practice intensely and dynamically, without stopping. If you somehow feel obligated to teach your partner despite this advice, try to do it without speaking, i.e. helping by performing good ukemi. If an explanation is absolutely necessary, ask the sensei on the mat to provide it.

About haste

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

I have been talking a bit about “haste” in class lately. I thought I would explain it at greater length.

I was watching an Iaido demonstration recently, and it struck me that one of the practitioners was truly excellent and the rest were merely “quite good.”

So what made the difference between excellent and good? After all, they were performing the same forms, basically the same way.

It struck me that the excellent practitioner had no “haste” in his movement, though he was quite fast. He was “in the moment” of whatever part of the movement he was in. The other students, it seemed to me, were thinking ahead to their next movement… not living in the movement they were currently performing. The level of “presence” was quite different in the excellent practitioner.

We see this in Aikido. It usually takes the form of students rushing to throw, almost skipping the preliminary movements to try to get quickly to throwing or pinning the uke with force.

The most important part of any technique is the beginning. If you have made the preliminary movements properly, the throw is much easier and more effective.

First you have to use correct footwork to enter and position yourself correctly for the technique. This requires perception and attention.

Next, you have to unbalance the partner. Again, this requires your attention and commitment.

The throw or pin comes after that, and is usually simple if you have executed the first two stages properly.

You have to be “present” in the first two movements to do them well… you shouldn’t hurry through them to rush to your goal of throwing uke.

Once this becomes second nature, the stages become invisible to an uninformed eye since they are executed very quickly.