Friday, October 24, 2008

Practical Aikido Seminar

There has been an association between Aikido of San Jose and Robert Koga sensei since the '90's at our old location in San Jose's Japantown. Koga sensei for years would teach his police tactics seminars in our building and I would invite him to teach an aikido class during his week of police instruction. He would usually say yes. And we have had earlier versions of this seminar at Aikido of San Jose at both its old and current locations.

I want to affirm that I find Robert Koga a true resource. I think it is fantastic that he has been able to teach police officers the techniques and principles of Aikido. I think it is fantastic also that someone has put in the care and time to see how these principles and techniques apply in situations outside of the dojo. We are currently in negotiations to have Koga sensei back for a follow up to the just completed seminar. More on that as we get dates and prices.

For those brave first 20 people who signed up and paid in advance, I would like to heartily thank you all. We got a great turn out of 40 people, but without those first 20, there would have been no seminar.

Having tried concepts from Koga sensei over the years, I would caution people who attended a well-presented seminar taught by a very skillful instructor who feel that they now know the concepts. To really be able to do the things Koga sensei teaches requires a very good grounding in more than learning about techniques. I asked Koga sensei to speak about this time with Koichi Tohei sensei. What he said was that whereas other people concentrated on learning the techniques he concentrated on learning what made the movements work. I thought his description given his background of judo and wrestling that aikido movements looked coreographed and impractical until Tohei sensei threw him and others and he could not feel how it was done. People these days probably forget the tremendous influence Tohei had in aikido's inception. He was chief instructor of world headquarters and was responsible for teaching the principles of energy and centering in aikido practice. His split with Hombu dojo in the early '70's has drastically altered the way aikido is practiced world-wide. Whereas some development in these areas comes from training in the techniques, just training in techniques leads to politics, rank consciousness,
and commercialization. Some of this happens anyway, but people often times just see aikido as something that is practiced in a dojo in a practice uniform, and the training becomes evaluated in terms of exericise, fighting skill, etc..... People may get better at training, at techniques, at being in better shape, but they themselves do not grow or transform.

I only saw Tohei sensei on one occasion, as a spectator in spring of 1970. He was god-like, with legs and arms resembling pillars. People would go flying as if by magic, yet you could sense the reality of what was there physically as well as energetically. And I'm sure Tohei sensei himself played a role in the split. But he represented something that mainstream aikido has moved away from and it is probably a very crucial piece of aikido's code.

I thought it was interesting that Koga sensei spent a month out of every year for awhile traveling with Tohei sensei, training and serving as an interpreter. So what he got was direct transmission, direct experience. In Shingu Tojima sensei through reading Tohei sensei's books introduced principles of ki to Aikido training. This was done, of course, when Hikitsuchi sensei was not present. Whereas Hikitsuchi sensei saw these principles in very spiritual terms very reminiscent of the founder, there is probably in importance in understanding the energy laws of things without the spiritual entanglement. We are reaching a time where science and mysticism seem to be coming together. So watching Tojima sensei teach energy classes was very interesting because they were taught in terms of movement and principle. For the record, I am also grateful for Hikitsuchi sensei's influence.

There is a youtube video available of the seminar. But I would recommend that you go to Koga sensei's website, where you can order videos of his approach that are far superior.


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