Real Aikido in NUS

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I enjoyed my Aikido class this evening.

Firstly, I partnered Teck Lim for Katate-dori Gyaku Hanmi-Shihonage Ura waza. The flow between the both of us is good, and although Teck Lim is holding a junior grade, he does hold his technique well, sans a few mistakes here and there, he is technically robust, at least robust to develop a rhythm in our exercise. We can go on non-stop, and this gave us both a good work out. More importantly, we get to work at a pace that is faster and more intense.

Aikido as a more developed level, goes beyond the physical, and technical, it also goes beyond the breath, with Teck Lim, I can push this, as he is already fundamentally sound in the movement, tempo and awareness. Of course, I tire him out and from that fatigue, we can explore another level of training, which is to push on, and through the experience of fatigue, you draw the energy deep within you to continue, then the technique will improve, marginally. It is not unlike weights exercise, where you train to failure.

Train to failure

In Aikido sense, you don’t develop large muscles when you ‘train to failure’, instead your partner, with the incessant attack, compels you to move, force you to hold true to the technique and not lose focus and form. Sometimes, you train until your hands are jelly, and you can barely catch your breath, that is the ‘sometimes’ where you have nowhere else to go, except to keep going on. It is not easy, but this evening I think I managed to achieve that with Teck Lim.

It is important, but often lacking in a beginners class; the intensity of training. For beginners, there are is technical crutches, speed at slow, moving and getting the hang of thing, the principles and basics of Aikido. To add speed into a technically unstable environment is a recipe for disaster, and in our case, Injury.

“Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.”

This evening, I can trust Teck Lim to take care of himself, while I take care of me, and when it comes to my turn to be a nage, I am able to execute the technique with him already sufficiently proficient in taking an ukemi, so I can be relatively hard with my move, knowing that he can take it. For a technique in Aikido to work flawlessly, both the nage and uke needs to trust each other, and trust themselves. Teck Lim and I have that trust and proficiency, that makes things work really well for the both of us.

It was a wonderful feeling, since there is little to talk about except action. It is the doing that makes Aikido comes alive, and that happens this evening.

Katate-dori Ai Hanmi-Shihonage omote waza

The other person that brings so much joy to my training this evening was Karen, who has always been a  quiet and shy girl. The thing about Aikido is, you can be anyone, and Aikido as an art, a community will accept you. Karen is a girl who comes to class and goes home, she seldom mixes around, but personally, I appreciate her quiet presence. In Aikido, I’ve learned over the years, anyone and everyone in class is there to teach all of us in class something, never mind if you are introverted or not. As long as you turn up in class, there is a beautiful opportunity to learn something from each other.

So Karen came late, and I decided to partner her. She is still white colour in belt, so I go extra slow. She did her technique like a beginner, but she did it without a pause or stoppage, which is unlike a white belt. She didn’t check herself, check her move. when I held her hand, she moved, slowly, smoothly, from beginning to finish. There is no speed, but there is technique.

It goes without saying that, Karen as a junior belt, will expect little or no resistance from me ( ask the more senior belts, they’ll tell you a different story!). I am usually very cooperative with white colour belts. That said, she does not need coaching, perhaps once or twice at the beginning, then she is on her own.

It was a very beautiful feeling as she is naturally shy, so she don’t talk much, so we are only left with action and relation. That’s great, as it is what Aikido is all about, irrespective if my partner is a junior belt or not.

This is the very reason why they always use the well worn cliche “Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.” This evening, this cliche came true, as Karen showed me that she knows Aikido, when she own the movement and both of us gets lost in the technique. We both come into the technique and allow the technique to happen, naturally and harmoniously.

You see it don’t take a senior belt to really master and enjoy Aikido. This evening, both Teck Lim and Karen has shown me, and I think more importantly themselves that Aikido is real, and when you are proficient to a certain basic fundamental level, there is harmony in the spirit of Aikido.

I was told quite recently that I should go ‘back’ for training, since in NUS, I only learn the basics, and the students come and go. Well, this evening, my decision to train with a bunch of boys and girls half my age is proven to be a good one, not to mention, totally enjoyable and wonderful.

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