Last class. Only Roger, Sensei and I were there. It was much like any other class. It ended, we went home. No speeches, no tears, no acknowledgement of the ending of anything.
Originally posted on taichiandco:
Master T.K. Chiba of aikido passed on June 5, 2015. He was one of the post-WW II students of the Founder, M. Ueshiba. That generation of students went on to distinguish themselves from the 1960s up to the present day. In their half century of devotion to the Master, his family, and the discipline, they made aikido into a world wide phenomenon.
In this video he made for posterity, Chiba Sensei speaks about what he considers essential to follow the path of Aiki. First and foremost he talks about the need to retain “sho-shin”, the beginner’s mind. Regardless of one’s level of attainment, he says, it is important to connect deeply with the “sho-shin”. Be pure, open. Be…unstained.
Chiba Sensei himself kept his own counsel. As such, his aikido was powerful. To many, it was intimidating if not overpowering. He taught hundreds of his own students over the decades, influenced…
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I entered a mountain bike race at the weekend and not far into the first lap the person in front of me stopped on a downhill section. Half afraid I would run into her and half afraid of why it was that she had stopped I tried to stop on a steep, technical section. I went over the bars, off the track and down an embankment of tree stumps. I did at least 3 full somersaults in what was my most spectacular crash ever. Surprisingly I was ok- of course I couldn’t tell the Marshall or any of the people trying to help me that I was ok for a little while all I did was lie on the ground wondering why the broken bits didn’t hurt. Turns out nothing was broken and I’m just a bit bashed up. Dark purple bruises on both legs, a cut knee, bruised ribs and the need for a new helmet since the bike landed on my old one. I am very lucky. I wonder if aikido helped me? At one point I remember the bike hitting my arm which was in front of my face so perhaps things would have been worse had I not been so highly trained ;)
Tonight kneeling was tricky but mostly I managed ukemi ok. I sat out of the grab the legs technique and the rugby tackle one. We did morote dori ikkyo and iriminage and yokomen iriminage before looking at two more jo dori. I was then paired with sensei for kumijo 2 then 1 into 2 then kumijo number 4. The weapons stuff is just beginning to come together for me just as it’s all about to end.
We have one more week with sensei. My main emotion about it now is guilt. I can’t help but think I’ve been a rubbish student and that’s contributed to him wanting to quit. Amazingly self-centred I know but the reality of it is that I need to find teacher number 4. What kind of crappy student needs 4 teachers? Most people seem to be able to find a forever teacher but mine all quit or give up on me. Perhaps the 4th one will work out or perhaps it’s time to hang up my hakama. Overly dramatic, yes, I do know this too will pass but at the moment it is only the thought of my students that is motivating me to continue.
Sensei was away and we were in a squash court tonight. Roger took the class. We started with the 6 count jo kata taking it down to one count a step at a time. Then we did the anti kata to turn it into a paired practice. I had done the anti kata before but totally forgotten it so it was good to learn it again. After that we did the ken suburi followed by the first kumitachi.
There is always lots of standing with weapons so I had a couple of sneaky sit downs as standing for that long is still difficult. This weeks news is that not only is my sensei quitting but his sensei is also stopping teaching. I don’t really like him yet I still find the news upsetting. It’s all becoming quite overwhelming and I feel my mood trickling downwards. I did hear from an iaido buddy this week and I’ve assured him I will put in some serious training now my aikido commitments have eased off. Perhaps I can concentrate on iaido to keep myself sane whilst a new aikido teacher appears.
I hosted my first seminar today. Well, it was a joint one with Sensei for our kids clubs to get together but it was where my club meets. I’ve been so busy that I only really thought about what to teach last night and I even wrote some notes to remind me. As usual I didn’t do what I planned. I think when I’m planning I decide to teach towards quite complicated things but then I don’t talk enough to explain them very well so I change my mind and don’t ever get to the complex stuff. Anyway, I survived it was ok, nobody got injured. I was really pleased with most of my students- all except the most senior one who seemed to be struggling and kept wandering off. Sensei taught mostly systema-ish stuff and it helped to crystallise one part of why I am so drawn to aikido and I will write a blog post on it soon.
I still have no idea what direction to go in and am still waiting hopefully for a teacher to magically appear. I know that the teacher is more important than the style. I think I probably have about 3 weeks left before it’s all over. It could be the shove I need to start my own club but I will still need a sensei and I’m not exactly a star student. I have moments of clarity when I am utterly convinced of the right thing to do. Unfortunately these moments never concur so I’m still quite lost. I need to get myself along to train with as many different people as I can and then decide.
I’ve had exams. Second year mechanical engineering and third year structural engineering. Life, training and even thinking beyond the engineering has been on hold. News of Chiba Sensei’s death saddened me. I never trained with him- I was too scared and in the phase of my aikido training where going on a course was beyond me. Having said that he has been a significant influence on Gary and on many of the teachers that have profoundly influenced my thinking. Perhaps it’s the shared religion that resonates me or perhaps he was just the first strong influence that I ever experienced in the aikido world. I’m sad he has gone. It feels like a year of endings.
Tonight was difficult. I hadn’t walked all day because I had a 3.5hr exam and only really managed to get walking again just before leaving the house. I hurt from sitting too much so my mind was not really focussed on training tonight. I couldn’t really do a lot of it but I didn’t really mind. There was a lovely atmosphere on the mat and that made me sad because it’s going to end soon when sensei quits. I’ve not counted the number of sessions left but it can’t be many.
I need to sit with all this and make a plan for the future. The big choice is whether to stick with the Iwama style or revert right back to Birankai. Back to Chiba Sensei’s influence, back to movement, back to training my body rather than thinking. Whilst my aikido started with Birankai style through Gary, my old sensei wasn’t affiliated to them and was only influenced by Chiba to a small extent so I hold no rank at all with them. Having said that much of it remains in my body such that whilst I can’t recall it, when shown I can do it. I also find it hard to imagine giving up on Iwama style. I can’t imagine not seeing the guys in our club any more and Pat Hendricks sensei made a big impression on me as did everyone in the Salisbury club and I would also be sad to no longer be on the same path as them. I’m looking forward to training in Salisbury again this summer. It’s such a shame I can’t do both styles but there is only so much time in a week. Right now, I just don’t know but I will start thinking about it now the exams are over.
Sleep then zazen, it will all will sort out….maybe.
It was a reasonable size class tonight with four of us plus sensei. Sometimes in the class we trained with a little movement which I enjoy. At other times I was dragging people around by the arm thinking there is no way I can teach this stuff. It’s a lot to do with the unspoken rules. We have to make concessions on the mat or we would kill each other. So some clubs keep contact, others put in gaps, some give balance and others just don’t. I was watching the ukemi closely in tai no henko ki no nagare. Contact with the base of the palm is not maintained in fact contact beyond the initial passing grab is not maintained. The result is very different. But hey, different is interesting.
Still no further forward in deciding a long term plan. Oh well.