Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lesson 34: Not From A Book

My sensei doesn't think you can learn aikido from a book. With him it's always "kankaku de ... kankaku de ..." By feeling ... by feeling. Tonight I was able to make a connection between this inclination and his disrespect of another sensei in Toyama prefecture by listening to some stories about how my sensei learned aikido. It answered a lot of personal questions I had about him.

For the past year, there's been attempts at uniting all the aikido dojos in Toyama under a certain Toyama Federation of Aikido, and sensei has been to a few meetings about it, but he has always been more than a bit unconcerned about it. I wondered why at first, and thought it was just a Japanese way to handle things for someone of some status ... taking a long time and a bit reluctantly.

Since I started aikido, I slowly learned that my sensei and Ueno-san (who just received her godan [fifth degree blackbelt] by the way) started training together about 20 years ago in Toyama City. They have trained together non-stop since then. When I asked why they still don't train in Toyama City with the same teacher, Ueno-san always says that he's not very good.

In a month or two, that teacher in Toyama City is having a bit of a get-together/seminar which may possibly include things about the Toyama Aikido Federation, and Sensei includes news about it often in his post-class news bulletin. He brings it up often to let people know, but he's not going, and always seems to play it down less than a little bit. Often in the Wednesday when we're working on more advanced stuff in small groups and get talking about "kankaku" (learning by feeling), he'll bring up this Toyama City teacher and say that his dojo doesn't do it at all. Slowly, I've been asking more information about this other sensei, and one particular thing that has come up a lot is that the other sensei doesn't do anything with a ken or jo (wooden sword and short staff), and is lacking a great facet of understanding the workings of aikido and whatnot. I'm forgetting now what other specific details Sensei compares his aikido to the other sensei's with.

But then tonight on the drive home, after a great Wednesday class, and we were talking about the different methods of training we use between Wednesday and Mondays and Thursdays and Saturdays. Basically, Wednesdays Mondays and Saturdays are "standard waza (technique)" training days, where we go over what could be considered the standard curriculum of aikido which should probably relate to all other aikikai dojos. But Wednesday is about more advanced techniques ... or not so much more advanced techniques, but a different way of seeing the same techniques in a way that is more difficult. Anyway ... I asked him if he got these Wednesday night methods from Kobayashi Sensei (who he claims to get the most influence and affiliate with the most and what is considered the Hombu Dojo), and he said no ... he mostly got it from various other teachers. I asked from what places in Japan and he named off some various places. Now I got really interested as I was starting to learn more specifics of my sensei's aikido past. Apparently, he started aikido (after doing Kenpo for a few years in college) in graduate school in Fukuoka for two years. Then after that, he came to Toyama to train with ...

THIS SENSEI HE SEEMS TO DESPISE until he was a nidan (second degree black belt)! (I put this in caps because when it was told in the story this is when I made the big connection between him and the other sensei in Toyama). In my mind, I had some image like he trained with Kobayashi Sensei for like 100 years or something and then met some other people blah blah blah, but it wasn't until after he was nidan that he met who he considers his main teacher. He said, when he became nidan, he felt he was better than his teacher who was a yondan (fourth degree black belt) at the time, and left to study under different people ... and actually now this part has become foggy again. He must have met Ueno-san during this time, but then went to study with Kobayashi Sensei, as well as meeting other extremely influential teachers in Osaka ... and probably way more other teachers that he doesn't think too highly of.

Mmmmm, more questions for Sensei...

Anyway, as for this other sensei in Toyama who was his teacher for a while ... how is it that he has trained for so long, and is looked down upon thusly by my teacher? Generally, my sensei said this was so because he learned everything from books he read, and not from a teacher.

This must be why he always comes back to "kankaku". This must be why, after my second month or so of training, I came to him with 6 books in Japanese about aikido that I had just ordered off amazon, and he wasn't very impressed. (All of which I planned to read. I've started one, which I've been doing for A LONG FRICKEN TIME very slowly and inconsistently and painfully and without yielding many useful gems about aikido ... but I do like this one in particular and have learned helpful terms in aikido ... but those other five will probably never be read by me ... anyway).

So yeah ... a lot of really valuable information came to me tonight in the last two minutes of the car ride of the night. Why he looks down on not learning by kankaku ... details about his aikido history ... and also a great night of training with thousands of other very kankaku-ish gems ... that I cannot explain.

Let's try one ...

You shouldn't use strength in aikido.


  1. his strength or your strength?

  2. my strength ... NO! his strength ... crap I don't know, I'll go think about that

  3. It's not as weird as it sounds, that a sensei should learn more from a master with whom he practiced less. An already (badly) trained pupil can do wonders with just a few months with a very good teacher, and vice versa. Think about it.