Mindful learning and Aikido

Fujimaki Hiroshi, 6th dan shihan of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, together with Ton Alcantara, 1st dan shihan wannabe of the Makati Aikido Club.

   

By Anthony O. Alcantara 

Recognizing distinctions. That’s what mindful learning is all about. The same thing taught or done over and over again is meaningless unless you seek out the distinctions that make it fresh, meaningful and memorable. 

 It reminds me of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. And it reminds me of those days when I did those stretching exercises hoping to become six feet tall.  

Today I’m still 5 feet 6 inches. My days of insanity are over, though they still occur occasionally when I’m bored. I’m reminded again that mindful repetition is the way to go.  

Thus I gleaned three key takeaways during Fujimaki Hiroshi’s Aikido seminar recently at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. He’s a 6th dan shihan, or master instructor, from Japan.  

Ton Alcantara feels the heat in the dojo. Participants pay for the excellent Aikido teaching and the sauna service.

  

1. There are many ways to skin a cat, but there is only one essence of a technique.  

Fujimaki Sensei, lamented that the brown belts who took the exam failed to satisfactorily execute different ways to do a technique. He said it’s one technique, but there are many ways to do it depending on the hand positions, whether low, medium or high.  

It’s not that the brown belts had no idea what Fujimaki Sensei was talking about. They just failed to understand what Fujimaki Sensei wanted to see. Perhaps Fujimaki Sensei’s English is not that good. Or perhaps the brown belts were a little nervous.  

In any case, I was reminded again about finding the essence of the technique. It may be important to do different versions of a technique, especially during exams, but efficient and effective execution borne out of a mastery of its essence… that’s the sweet spot.  

If you break down the technique to its bare essentials and find a way to apply these in a real fighting situation, you’re in much better shape as a martial artist. Sticking to the essence is better than having a fanciful repertoire.  

Ton folds his hakama after a session of "I'll kick your ass if you kick mine" Aikido practice. It's all give and take.

  

Fujimaki Sensei also taught about keeping your center, which some say is about two inches below your navel. It’s your center of gravity, center of balance. You get your power from your center. Each movement should emanate from it.  

Easier said than done. Sometimes I forget to apply this myself, confident that I’ve done the techniques thousands of times. But mindful movements can help. And I realized that keeping your center is about asserting yourself, asserting your presence in front of your opponent. For me, it’s a new way to think about it.  

Your opponent is trying to do you harm. So you stand your ground and face the threat not with the intention to clash, but with the intention to neutralize the threat quickly and with the least possible pain. Just like breaking your opponent’s arm instead of breaking his neck. Or perhaps breaking a finger instead of an arm, or rewarding him with a cheek with an imprint of your palm and a reddish blush on to go with it, instead of an eye with a very dark eye shadow, whichever seems appropriate at the moment.  

Ton smiles before the camera together with the somewhat unwilling Fujimaki Sensei and his first Aikido sensei way back in college. I think his name is Kozuma.

  

3. Complacency and pride ought to have no place in Aikido.  

The senseis, or teachers, of the examinees received a gentle reprimand. Fujimaki Sensei said it was the fault of the teachers that most examinees failed to do different versions of a technique he asked for.  

While all the examinees passed, Fujimaki Sensei exhorted the senseis to shape up. Even the simple rituals of bowing and entering the mat during exams must be revisited.  

I guess sometimes even experienced practitioners take many things for granted. Many are tempted to think that the way they do their techniques is the best.  

It’s probably human nature. But Fujimaki Sensei reminded us that complacency and pride are an undesirable combination in Aikido.
  

So these three distinctions relating to the essence of a technique, asserting your presence, and the danger of complacency and pride have made the seminar valuable for me. And I’m sure many others learned something, too.  

 

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