סדנאת אורח – שיהאן אנדו, בעל דרגת דאן 8 ביושינקאן אייקידו, מגיע לישראל

אני שמח לבשר ששיהאן אנדו, בעל דרגת דאן 8, ומי שהיה אוצ'י דשי (תלמיד החי ומתחזק את הדוג'ו), והאוקה הצמוד של מאסטר גוזו שיודה, מייסד שיטת יושינקאן אייקידו,  מגיע לישראל. האימונים ייערכו בין התאריכים, 26-27 לאוקטובר, בדוג'ו זאנשין בבית חירות.

תוכנית האימונים:

יום שישי 26/10

08:00 הרשמה והתארגנות
09:00 – 11:00 אימון בוקר
11:00 – 12:00 הפסקה
12:00 – 14:00 אימון צהריים

14:00 סיור באיזור ופעילות חברתית על חוף הים

יום שבת 27/10

08:00 הרשמה והתארגנות
09:00 – 11:00 אימון בוקר
11:00 – 12:00 הפסקה
12:00 – 14:00 אימון צהריים

  • מבצע מיוחד במחיר של 400 ש"ח לשלושים המשלמים הראשונים.

גשקו קוקיוהו – מחנה האימונים של קיץ 2018

גשקו קוקיוהו, (נשימה), ייערך בין ה13-14 ליולי במעגן הימי שדות ים. ההרשמה פתוחה ומספר המקומות מוגבל ל20 איש בלבד!!!

תכנית האימונים:

יום שישי 13.07

9:00 הגעה והתארגנות

10:30 מתיחות, חימום ומבוא לגשקו קוקיוהו – גדי

11:30 קוקיוהו 1,2 וקוקיונאגא  – אלכס

12:30 קוקיוהו 4,5 וקוקיונאגא- דרור

13:30 ארוחת צהריים

14:45 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות –

15:30 מכניזם נשימה ושיהונאגא – יהודה

16:30 מכניזם נשימה ואירימינאגא – אביהוד

17:30 מכניזם נשימה ואיקאג'ו – שחר

18:30 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות–

19:00 ארוחת ערב

*פעילות חברתית מלווה בהרצאות

יום שבת 14.07

07:00 התעוררות בוקר של יוגה – אורי

08:30 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות

09:30 ארוחת בוקר

10:30 חניקות ונשימה – גדי

11:30 קוטאגיישי, שיהונאגא ואירימינאגא – אימון מסכם – אביהוד

12:30 קוקיוהו, קוקיונאגא – אימון מסכם – שחר

13:30 הדגמות

14:00 ארוחת צהריים

פיזור

מבחני דרגה לקיו-4

 בתחילת פברואר התקיימה בחינת הקיו-4 של יבגני לנדה. יבגני החל דרכו באייקידו לפני כשנתיים וחצי בדוג'ו בקריית גת. האוקה בבחינה היה ניר גוטמן, (קיו 4). המבחן נערך בדוג'ו בנס ציונה. יבגני עבר את המבחן בהצלחה.

סרטון הבחינה

גשקו ביפן – מרץ 2018

Related image

 

מחנה אימונים בן עשרה ימים ביפן. במהלך הגשקו התאמנו במכונים שונים ברחבי יפן וגם התנסנו בשיטות אייקידו שונות.

כמו כן, טיילנו באזורים אליו נגיע – טועמים מהחדש והישן, מיפן המודרנית והחדשנית כמו גם מיפן העתיקה עם מסורותיה המרתקות. להלן תכנית הגשקו:

תכנית המסע ליפן

 

10/03/2018

 

טיסה ליפן

 

11/03/2018

 

הגעה בצהריים לנמל התעופה
נריטה

 

נריטה לשיבויה טוקיו

 

התארגנות במקומות הלינה

 

סיבוב בהרג'וקו ושיבוייה
– קניות, ארוחת ערב

 

12/03/2018

 

 יקיצה מוקדמת ונסיעה
להומבו דוג'ו של אייקיקאי

 

6:30 -9:00 אימוני בוקר עם הנכד של אואשיבה/ קנאזאו'וה –
פגישה עם אואשיבה

 

יויוגי פארק ומקדש
ומוזיאון המלחמה – יושוקאן – שלל מוצגים הנותנים זווית ראייה שונה למלחמת העולם
השנייה

 

13/03/2018

 

 יקיצה ונסיעה לשוק הדגים,
(טס'וקיג'י) – לראות ולא להאמין לשוק הדגים המרהיב בעולם – כמובן שגם ננסה את
הסושי הטרי ביותר

 

 אימון צהריים עם אנדו
שיהאן

 

שינג'וקו בערב וקראוקה

 

 14/03/2018

 

נסיעה לקמאקורה בוקר –
קמאקורה הוא אחד מהאזורים המרשימים ביותר בקירבת טוקיו – במקום מקדשים ומסלולי
הליכה בטבע

 

אימון ערב עם צ'ידה שיהאן

 

15/03/2018

 

טיול באודייבה, אי
מלאכותי ליד טוקיו:

 

 Mirikan – מוזיאון מדהים של מדע ויזמות – רובוטיקה,
תלת מימד ועוד ממיטב ההי טק היפני

 

 Mega web  מקום תצוגה יחודי
השייך לחברת טויוטה-  יש במקום עוד מגוון רחב של פעילוית מרתקות אחרות

 

רחצה באונסן

 

16/03/2018

 

בוקר חופשי – איו'ואמה
לקראת הצהריים, מקום בו אואשיבה התגורר בזמן מלחמת העולם השניה – יש במקום מקדש
שהוא הקים לכבוד אומנות האייקידו ודוג'ו שבנה – במקום היה מלמד ומתגורר סאייטו
סנסאי, מי שהמציא את קטאת ה31  תנועות

 

טיול באזור ואימון ערב
בדוג'ו של אואשיבה

 

 

17/03/2018

 

נסיעה לקיוטו, התארגנות
וסיבוב באיזור הגיישות

 

18/03/2018

 

סיור מקדשים בבוקר
בקיוטו, אימון צהריים אצל פאייט שיהאן והמשך סיור בעיר העתיקה של קיוטו אחה"צ

 

19/03/2018

 

המשך סיור בקיוטו – שוק
מסורתי ופארק הקופים.

 

צהריים נסיעה לאוסאקה –
סומו ואימון טומיקי אייקידו

 

20/03/2018

 

הירושימה – מוזיאון מאזדה
ומקום נפילת הפצצה האטומית+מוזיאון

אופציה לאימון ערב עם
פאייט שיהאן בשיבה לקיוטו

 

21/03/2018

 

שיבה לטוקיו – יום חופש לאומי
– קניות וסיור עצמאי בעיר

 

22/03/2018

 

טיסה חזרה הביתה – הגעה
לקראת חצות

 

The "unrealistic" Targets In Modern Kendo – An article exploring the reasons for the points of attack in Kendo – by Ellis Amdur

http://www.files.org.il/BRPortalStorage/a/2/56/64/01-4h75oANsuU.jpg

The "unrealistic" targets in modern kendo

Ellis Amdur

http://kogenbudo.org/why-the-unrealistic-targets-in-modern-kendo/

 A question was recently raised in a discussion group where I participate: why, from a combative perspective, does modern kendo target areas for victory which are not congruent with those necessary for victory on a battlefield? Here are the point-scoring areas: let us consider them in turn, looking at the armor of a classical warrior, viewing one version linked here.  To be sure, there are myriads of variations of armor, worn in different periods of Japanese history, but some general principles can be derived, even from more limited armor such as this kogusoku here. The head, protected by a helmet, or even a reinforced band, is not really a viable target, whereas the sides of  neck, eschewed in kendo (and in older kenjutsu schools) certainly is. The throat is certainly a target, but note that even light armor often had a protector for the throat. And even in light armor, the outer surface of the wrists (unlike the inside) is well protected. And finally, the sides (do) are certainly well guarded with heavier armor, unlike the hips or backs of the legs

The easiest answer is one that I heard from Donn Draeger many decades ago: true combatives attack the most vulnerable areas; combative sports deliberately attack the most protected or guarded ("hitting below the belt" is forbidden in boxing, for one of almost infinite examples).Not only does kendo attack the armored areas, it attacks the areas that are easiest to armor

The answer is more complex that this, however, although this is certainly a part of it.  Kendo is primarily derived from Itto-ryu. Itto-ryu focused on kiriotoshi (the perfect straight downward cut, based on the principle that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, the winner being the one with perfect integrity of physical organization). With a secondary cut to the wrist (kote), and in my opinion, dogiri being the flowing response to an enemy partially neutralizing one and two above. Itto-ryu pioneered, in many ways, dueling kenjutsu, the predominant innovation of the Edo period. (A perfect kiriotoshi can even 'cut through' a kesa-giri as much as it can an opposing menuchi). As people quite naturally wished to test – and develop – their skills, we have the development of shinai-geikko, which surely had an Itto-ryu base. Yes, there were many other ryu involved (as I write in Old School, even Annaka Araki-ryu emerged into an Itto-ryu variant, the last type of ryu that one would think would function that way, and became the pioneer of kendo in northern Gunma in the Meiji period. Many han began to see that the samurai trained in competition were more effective in suppressing farmer rebellion – ikki: not necessarily because their techniques were more "complete" than those of older kata-only, warfare based ryu, but because the men training that way were much tougher. And the daimyo actually demanded that competitive shinai geikko be instituted, and in some cases in bakamatsu, that ryu close down and amalgamate into a "han-ryu," centered around shinai-geikko. Among those bushi who were not rural and impoverished enough to also farm, the tough guys were those who did competition, and they had a better chance of beating farmers armed with clubs, hoes and mattocks than all the elegant kata-kenjutsu in the world, especially if done by those lacking requisite toughness, or the shock of being smashed or beaten occasionally All of this resulted in the development of a competitive system that hewed rather closely to Itto-ryu, the dominant ryu (and those 100's who adopted its operating system). Kiriotoshi became men (and kote – note from the linked images how close they are in Ono-ha Itto-ryu!) And once the rules were even informally codified for inter-han competition, or inter-dojo competition, those rules became reality. (Like there were really no physical culture reason in early judo to demand an upright posturesambo players turned judoka shocked the Japanese in the 1960's when they first competed – it started out as an expression of "moral uprightness" and probably to make a clear distinction between judo and sumo –and older yoroi kumiuchi as well –

I remember a friend of mine with a 6th dan in kendo who said how much he hated practicing with bogu with Donn Draeger because, "He just couldn't stop himself. He kept hitting me in the legs." And, the man continued, his reflexes were so bound by decades of kendo that he never could protect himself either).

Once the rules became reality, deviation seemed odd or even inconceivable. Finally, once one codifies the rules, it is natural to try to win within the rules. If dancing on the balls of the feet will allow you to move faster, why sink the hips like one would for kenjutsu on rough ground? And if whipping the wrists with a flexible snap will generate more speed with the bamboo shinai than an integrated cut with the entire body, why would a sportsman give up winning for an abstract principle – the perfect 'cut' with a shinai is no more likely to sever anything than a wrist-led strike, given that the 'weapon' is four strips of bamboo or carbon fiber bound together, not a sword

In short as odd as kendo looks if you compare it to, say Kashima Shinto-ryu and wonder how it got from "there to here," it's actually a rather natural evolution, quite congruent with cultural developments within Japanese culture

No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, without permission in writing from the author. It is acceptable to share a link to this article on such social media as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter

Total Disaster – Memories from the times the book "Total Aikido" was pictured at the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo

 

Part One

Discontent took hold of me near the end of the senshusei course. The irony did not escape me. I felt lost, unfocused and misguided, despite the incredible amount of knowledge that was poured into me on a daily basis. Things got worse when we started practicing jiyu-waza (free techniques), where the movements were swift and accurate while the throws were as hard as could be.

"That's disgusting," I told David when he raised his arm and showed me the swelling on his elbow. David had become my partner in the senshusei course when John, his previous partner, quit after a couple of months. It left David and I as the only foreign students there.

"It might be disgusting," he said, "but I don't care. I didn't join the course in order to become pretty."

"Come on, David," I begged. "Please put it away."

The skin around the elbow joint stretched down with the force of gravity, hanging loose from the tip of the bone like a sack filled with liquid. David tapped the sack and it swung from side to side.

"Nice, isn't it?" he laughed.

"Stop it."

"You're being squeamish."

"I'm not! It's horrible, David. If I didn't know otherwise, I would say your testicles had moved to a new location."

"Not funny."

"I agree. You should have it checked out."

"No way," he winced, dropped his arm and hid it behind his back. "I've had enough of doctors and hospitals to last me a life time."

"I can't blame you, but…"

"Here we go."

He had been hospitalized for nearly a month due to a rare infection that alarmingly raised the temperature of his body and caused his neck to swell. He'd only been released a few weeks ago. He rolled his eyes a few times as I continued my tirade concerning his reckless attitude towards his body.

"You should see a physician," I concluded with a deep frown. He snorted a laugh and reached out, pressing the impressive swelling that decorated the bony ridge of my lower back. I screamed and jumped back.

"When you see a physician for your pains, smart ass," he said. "I might consider doing the same."

"Mine is not as bad as yours."

"That's too bad for you. You know what they say – 'Let pain and injury be the guide to improve your ukemi'."

"Sure," I spat. "Just like 'chotto relax' and 'moto renshu' are the keys to improving your aikido."

He walked away, leaving me to grind my teeth as I thought about the phrase he had stated.

There were a few vague phrases that the instructors at the Honbu Dojo regularly used as guidelines to improve our aikido. The first was the remark of: 'moto renshu' ('train more,'), which made perfect sense when rehearsing in order to improve and sharpen correct moves. However, moto renshu proved to be completely inadequate when trying to correct technical faults.

"What's the point of repeating the same mistake over and over again?" I asked Sensei Mark Baker. He looked confused by the question.

"When you repeat your mistakes, you eventually learn how to correct them," he said.

"But wouldn't it be far more productive to actually know the correct way rather than spending hours and days trying to find it?"

"It would be," he smiled. "But unfortunately, the correct way changes from one individual to another according to their personality, body type, age and even gender. What makes matters even more complicated is the fact that 'the correct way' can keep changing for the same individual throughout their life."

"And how's that?"

"Because they change as well."

"Change?"

"We're all changing all the time, aren't we? Getting old, maybe even wiser. Yes, Gadi, even you."

Not least frustrating was the command, 'chotto relax,' ('Relax a little,') which came about as a response to all our questions.

"Can't slide comfortably on your feet? – Just 'chotto relax and it will be alright." "Can't apply the nikajyo lock properly? Not a problem – 'chotto relax and it will work itself up."

The phrase could refer to different body parts, a multitude of techniques and mental attitude.

"I'm not 'chotto relax but A Loto Relax," I thought. "Give me something I can work on. I don't understand what you people mean!"

"Pain and injury will be the guide to improve your ukemi," was the latest addition to that list of phrases the instructors used. The logic was brutally simple – you take the fall and if injury occurs, the pain will cause your body to change the line on which you drop, away from the injured tissue and onto a position that is free of pain.

I just hoped I would find that cherished, free of pain, relaxed and well rehearsed place before my body and spirit got broken beyond repair.

*

My sense of inadequacy was overwhelming by the time I finished the course and joined the Honbu Dojo staff as a junior instructor. I felt insecure when I tied the black belt around my waist, embarrassed when I taught and demonstrated in front of students, and off-line and off-center whenever I took falls for the instructors during class.

The only positive side to my sense of failure seemed to be the joy it gave to my predecessors. And to David as well, despite the fact he performed just as badly as I did.

"Look at them going," I whispered to him and motioned at Chino and Mori sensei. "Have you ever seen them so happy together?"

The two were leaving the mats after completing a test rehearsal session, an hour long training that David and I were ordered to join in order to improve our performance. The two were conversing and even smiling at each other as they entered the office.

"Amazing," David nodded. "And to think that at the beginning of the class they were murderously eyeing each other."

"I guess our shitty performance has its benefits."

"Shitty performance, are you kidding me?" David burst out laughing. "This is aikido at its best! Think about it, Gadi, they came in like bitter enemies and left as best friends and all thanks to us. Didn't you hear how they giggled like little school girls all through the class?"

"Of course I did, their laughter rang in my ears like church bells every time we made a mistake."

"Don't be silly. Be positive and think of the love and harmony we have managed to spread."

"Amen," I smiled sadly.

He sighed and rolled his eyes at me. "Take it easy, Gadi. No need to get upset."

But I couldn't take it easy even if I wanted to. I was bewitched by the art. Recalling Mori sensei's analogy with salt and pepper, I saw aikido as a goal rather than a companion to life. My mind drove me onward, but at a speed that did not match my knowledge of that bumpy road. It was as if I was irresponsibly driving in the darkness, the vehicle out of control, hitting trees and hedges as it swayed from side to side…

Some of my worst memories from that period come from the photo-shoot for the book, Total-Aikido. The dojo would be closed in the early afternoon, and only the instructors and the camera-crew were permitted to enter through its doors. The training hall was rearranged for the event. The mats in the center, on the line between the back wall and the shrine at the front, were marked with sticky-tape, spotlights positioned around and above it, and the windows were blacked out with cardboard.

All the instructors took part in the demonstrations, but only Chida sensei was there for most of the shoot. He would stand by the director and supervise the takes, making sure the techniques were properly performed and photographed.

The most bizarre spectacle was to watch him instruct Kancho Sensei in front of the camera.

Master Shioda, despite being the visionary and the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, seemed oblivious to the specific fashion in which aikido techniques were performed at his Honbu Dojo. Yet he also seemed aware of this, and he would observe and listen attentively as Chida sensei explained and demonstrated each stage of the techniques before him, his eyebrows raising occasionally, a hint of a smile appearing at the corner of his mouth. Even as he performed after all the explanations, he would often stop and ask Chida sensei for instructions.

"It's ridiculous," I told David. "We all study a system that is alien to its founder."

"Because he has no need to know it," David sighed. "This system is designed to try and figure out how he performs his techniques."

"By doing it in the opposite way? Have you ever watched his videos? What we learn is the way Chida sensei does the techniques."

"But if Kancho Sensei approves it, then I guess its OK. Don't you have some faith in your Master?"

Chida sensei also decided which instructor performed what technique and on whom. I posed as uke for a few techniques, but it was only thanks to Chida sensei, who determined I should take part in the book regardless of my ill performance.

And an ill performance it was, by all accounts, despite the fact I gave everything I had, investing my mind, my body and my desire to succeed at every technique I was chosen to demonstrate. Thankfully, I was mostly chosen to perform osaewaza, the pin-down techniques, which were relatively easy to model in front of the camera. However, it still took me a considerable amount of time and plenty of effort in order to get to the desired positions.

Fortunately, my poor abilities served as comic relief to the crew, especially to the director who would smile in anticipation when it was my time to perform. Needless to say, I had to muster all my self-discipline in order to stay focused as the sound of their chuckling penetrated my ears.

But even the director lost his cheerfulness when Chida sensei, in a bizarre act of kindness, decided that David and I should serve as uke to one another on a kotegaeshi throw.

"Again," the director ordered, still smiling, when I lost my balance for the third time while throwing David. He lost his cheerfulness by the fifth throw, and even Chida sensei showed signs of desperation by the seventh trial.

"But you threw him to the left," he frowned, the director rolling his eyes behind him. "How did you end up facing the right?"

After a few more unsuccessful efforts, I exchanged roles with David but it didn't seem to improve the outcome of our miserable display. Chida sensei kept pressing us and the crew, who looked quite grumpy by this stage, but in the end he was forced to give up when the director complained he was running out of film.

"Don't look so gloomy," David tried to pacify my sore mood. "If you think about it, we have something in common with Kancho sensei."

"Which is?"

"We're both performing the techniques very differently from Chida sensei."

Needles to say, our disastrous display never made the book.

Part Two

The Confrontational Instructor – A Tale About A Particularly Rough Instructor

Part One

Of all the instructors I trained with, Chino sensei proved to be my hardest challenge. The brutality in which he behaved took me completely by surprise.

I knew Chino sensei from the day I joined the Hombu Dojo, six months prior to the beginning of the Senshusei course, as he was one of the teachers of the beginners' classes that I took every evening. He was a short young man who could emit incredible power, his grip so strong that I heard quite a few students complaining of headaches after he applied yonkajo lock to their wrists.

His style of teaching was old-school, very technical, hardly using any words. Unlike most instructors, he rarely socialized with the students, a distant approach that he continued to maintain when training was over. This became obvious when I moved into the Hombu Dojo, a few weeks before the beginning of the course, due to my precarious economical situation.

Chino sensei lived part-time at the Hombu Dojo, one week sleeping at the room next to the kitchen and on the other, staying at the apartment that the Hombu Dojo rented just a few blocks away. He alternated the spaces with Mori sensei, the youngest Japanese instructor at the dojo.

Despite the fact he only slept at the Hombu Dojo every other week, and that I lodged on the other side of the building, he looked rather grumpy whenever we met at night, very unlike Mori sensei, who spent the evening trying to socialize and converse, regardless of our language barriers. Although I never took Chino's behavior personally,

I consequently did my best to avoid the kitchen, where he spent most of his time, thereby cutting myself off from the only source of entertainment left in the house, as the kitchen and Kancho sensei's chamber were the only rooms to host a television. To make matters worse, the Hombu Dojo used to close its gates at ten o'clock every night, limiting my ability to get out.

"If you're not sure you'll be back by ten o'clock," I was warned by Mark Baker sensei, "then you'd better prepare a nice cardboard box in some cozy street before you leave."

"What for?"

"For your bed, Gadi, because there is no way in hell you'll get in after ten."

Luckily, there was one Japanese instructor who would sit and converse with me, at least for a short while, on the evenings Chino sensei was around. This was Nishida sensei, a kind young man with a round face and thick round glasses, who came from the island of Hokkaido. Nishida lived full time at the Hombu Dojo, and although his exclusive work description was as Kancho sensei's chauffeur, he occasionally taught the beginner's course. Nishida could speak some English, and he was very inquisitive about the country I came from and the countries I'd visited. In exchange, he would enlighten me about various Japanese customs.

The only down side was that Nishida sensei liked to go to sleep quite early, leaving me to either sit in the kitchen with the gloomy Chino or to be confined to the Sho-Dojo, the room I used for sleeping.

"It's not ideal," Baker sensei warned me when the Hombu first presented me with the option of staying in the Sho-Dojo.

"The Sho-Dojo?" I frowned. "Are you referring to that big storage room with the brooms? The one next to the training hall?"

"Like I said, not ideal but perfect under the circumstances."

"Forgive me, Sensei, but isn’t it the same room where the police stay during the course?"

"But they only stay there during the day. Look, Gadi," Mark sighed as he studied my dark expression, "you need to understand that the Hombu Dojo holds no facilities for uchi-deshi since it moved to Ochiai. You should be very grateful they allowed you to stay at all."

"I am grateful," I promised and took the offer without a second thought. I was indeed thankful, despite the lack of privacy and the constant stench of cigarettes that remained in the room from the heavily smoking group of policemen. The only downside was Chino sensei and his un-welcoming attitude.

However, none of his antisocial etiquette could have prepared me for the way he behaved when he partnered with me during the course. It remains embedded in my consciousness to this day.

It happened on a Saturday morning, a class dedicated to summarizing all the techniques that we learned during that week. I remember standing in line, and waiting at the beginning of the class for my partner to arrive. I never had forewarning who that partner might be. Where I stood, at the very far end of the dojo, my field of vision was hampered by a number of students who stood still and waited for the lesson to commence.

A few seconds passed until Chino came to stand at attention across from me. He glared at me through his half closed eyelids and the look in his eyes was cold and piercing, as if drilling a hole through my centre with a frozen drill.

"Rei!" Barked Chida sensei, the headmaster of the Hombu who took the class, and we bowed to each other. "Kamae!" and we moved into a fighting stance, motionless and staring at each other. Chida sensei then called out the first technique of the day, "Katatemochi Nikajo Osae Ichi," meaning: 'Wrist-grab with Lock number 2, variation number 1,' and we moved into position. I reached out and grabbed his wrist, as always, my position in the line dictating that I should first play the role of the Uke.

Now nikajo, as any aikidoka knows, is not only one of the most painful locks, but also one of the most dangerous, simultaneously putting at risk the wrist, elbow and shoulder, not to mention it allows the shite full control over uke's body, a quality Kancho gracefully used to its full capacity.

Chida sensei called the command to strike, and in response, Chino sensei landed a heavy blow, not as heavy as a 'Roland sensei strike' but pretty close. I blocked it without flinching.

"I'm onto you," I thought as I studied his blank expression, not knowing how far I was from being 'onto' anything at all.

"Ichi," Chida sensei counted and Chino fixed my arm to the position of the lock, "Ni," Chida sensei counted the second move and Chino came down on my arm with unbelievable force, crushing all three joints and pinning me down to the floor. My arm felt like a twig in his deadly grip. The pain was unbearable, but it was nothing compared to the overwhelming sense of danger that gripped my heart with fear. I tapped the tatami to indicate my submission, and in response he increased the pressure.

"He's going to break it," an internal voice screamed in my ears. "Fight him, or it's the end of that limb."

I had no doubt in my mind that he could do as he wished with my arm, that he possessed the skill to cause permanent damage, and that he would suffer no consequences even if he did. In Japan, at least during those days, there was no law to prevent a martial arts instructor from damaging his students, no insurance money to claim for such injuries. The rule of engagement was quite simple – all wrong-doings were always uke's fault for the following reasons:

Uke was too slow to react, his mind wondering off – Completely inattentive.

Uke was too fast to react, his arm too stiff to the touch, his attitude over zealous.

Uke was holding back, not fully committed to the technique and as a result, the demonstration was destroyed.

And shite can do no wrong – always perfect.

Lazy uke

Naughty uke

Devious uke

Bad, bad uke!

I bit my lip and tried my best to push against the pressure in my arm but it only hurt more, the over-strained muscles and tendons pulsating rays of agony. It seemed like the only way out was to wait for the next move – wait while tapping the floor like a mad-man with my free hand.

I was so relived when Chida sensei called out for the next move that I didn’t care about the way Chino sent me flying forward, almost knocking my head onto the floor. In fact, I was so pleased that the pressure on my arm was released that I forgot all about the osae, the final pin that waited at the end of the technique. On the next call Chino sensei flattened me to the floor and as he moved to position himself for the osae, he attached my arm to his body, so tightly that I already felt pinned down.

"Osae!" Chida sensei called out and in response, Chino twisted my arm and forcefully pressed it to the ground. A loud scream escaped my mouth as I felt my shoulder grind against the floor, as if Chino was using it as a blade he was trying to drive through the mat. I tapped the ground over and over again to indicate my submission, but to no avail. He seemed determined to hurt me.

When the technique was over, I jumped to my feet and ran to my position across from him. I had tears in my eyes, a throbbing right arm and the fact we were about to go through the same technique a few more times before moving to the other limb, filled my heart with terror. But there was no time to dwell on my pain and fear as Chida sensei called us again to move in. I clenched my teeth and grabbed his wrist, hoping he would show some compassion now that he had established his dominance.

A curse nearly escaped my open mouth when he cut down on my wrist and drove me down with the full backup of his body. We repeated the drill five more times and I could barely move my right arm when the session was over and we moved to the other side.

"There goes my left," I thought when I reached out to hold him. He had the same cold look in his eyes as he repeated the assault on my left arm. From the corner of my eye I saw Chida sensei staring at us and for a second I fantasized that he might put an end to the ordeal. But he only moved his eyes away when he saw me looking at him. I was all alone, and the only thought to keep me going was that soon I would have a go at his wrists.

Both arms were shaking spasmodically when Chida sensei ordered the roles to be reversed.

"Vengeance is mine," I thought and tried my best to return the favor, to twist, hurt and grind his wrist with all my might. I didn’t care if my actions would cause permanent damage. I wanted him to pay. However, I was denied satisfaction as he never seemed bothered by my efforts, his arm dangling relaxed and heavy from my grip, so much so that I actually had to struggle against gravity in order to keep his limb aloft. I was panting laboriously at the end of the session, beaten physically and mentally when we moved into Katatemochi Nikajo Ni, the circular variation of the same technique. Once more I went through the same painful experience, only this time around my mind was filled with inciting voices calling me to quit.

When the lesson was over I collapsed at the corner of the dojo. I sat with my palms resting on my thighs and closed my eyes, trying to calm my breathing and to assess my condition. My shoulders felt as if they were torn out of their sockets, the elbows pulsating in agony, the arms heavy and throbbing with pain. Worst of all was my right forearm. It was swollen, tight and restricted in all turning motions.

"Gadi?" I heard a warm familiar voice and I opened my eyes.

"Hey," I smiled sadly at the tall bearded man who stood in front of me.

His name was Robert Mustard, a Canadian in his late thirties who had come to Japan three years previously and had participated in the Senshusei course. Robert completed the course and remained in Japan, diligently training every morning, and in the evenings working as an English teacher. Robert was a gifted aikidoka, his technique flowing and powerful. He never held back from helping me out, always happy to answer questions regarding the techniques, or just to sit and give his support when things were getting tough and miserable.

"Are you alright?" he asked and lowered himself beside me.

"Couldn’t be much worse, thank you."

"Yes, I saw," he sighed and patted my shoulder. "But don’t worry about it, don’t let him ruin your day. He's young and young people sometimes tend to be very stupid."

"But I'm younger than him."

"Exactly my point," he nodded.

"But what is their point?" I asked, smiling despite my gloominess.

"Their point? What do you mean?"

"Does he behave this way of his own accord, or is it because he is told to do so?"

It was Robert's turn to chuckle.

"Are you suggesting a conspiracy, Gadi? That maybe Chida sensei or even Kancho has some devious plan to hurt you?"

"Well… I don’t know what to think."

"Are you getting paranoid on me?"

"I'm just trying to figure it out. Seriously, Robert, there must be a better reason for the way he behaves than just being young and stupid."

"Like what?"

"Maybe I was too cocky during training or disrespectful to one of the instructors? I don’t know."

"I never saw you being disrespectful and although you are cocky at times, I don’t think either one is the reason. It sounds too far fetched to me."

"So what is it?"

"I guess only Chino knows the answer to that," he sighed and then pointed at the clock on the wall. "Shall we go and get a drink before the next lesson?"

"I don’t think I can do the next lesson. I'm done for the day."

"You'll be fine, you'll see."

"But…"

"No buts," he raised his voice. "Don’t you dare quit because of him."

Luckily, Chino did not return to train with me during the next session and when the day was over, I left the Hombu and went straight to Tessa, my girlfriend, who lived at a Guest-House one subway stop away. Tessa spoiled me all through the weekend, helping me nurse my wounds and listening to me grumbling about Chino sensei.

"I don't want to go," I told her the day I was supposed to get back to the dojo. "Don't want to see him anymore."

She exhaled loudly.

"So what," she said. "You're going to quit the course just because of him?"

"Better than killing him."

"You're not going to kill anyone."

"I will if he bullies me again."

"Shut up," she said. "You're being over-dramatic. Just go, train and avoid him the best you can."

"But he's staying at the dojo this week."

"Then come and stay with me when you've had enough," she smiled and kissed me. "There's always room for you in here."

I took up her offer and slept nearly every night at her place, usually arriving early and hanging out at the guest house during the afternoons, watching videos, socializing with the tenants and trying my best to ignore Phil, a Canadian who lived at her guest house, California House, and who found extreme pleasure in taunting me, especially after I unwisely disclosed to him the reason for my frequent visits.

"The Aikido Master is here to find shelter," he would announce to the house upon my arrival. He would laugh at my frown and would usually add something like: "Yes, I know, don't tell me, you're not hiding but actually practicing the aikido principal of avoiding conflict." He would continue to throw his jokes around all through the evening.

But despite the extreme measures that I took to avoid Chino sensei, I had zero control over the instructors allocated to train with me and he would come and face me every Saturday morning for yet another session from hell, terrorizing me and hurting my body, crushing my joints and squashing my will and spirit.

"That's it," I told Payet sensei after a particularly brutal lesson in which Chino twisted my arms so badly that I could hardly move either one.

"That's it?" he raised his eyebrows. "What do you mean? Are you going to quit?"

"No," I whispered coarsely, my eyes stinging from tears. "I'm not quitting, not because of him."

"So what are you going to do?"

"Fight back but not under his terms anymore. Please tell Chino sensei that next time he behaves this way, I'll be waiting for him downstairs."

"Do you want to fight him?"

"Why not? I used to box and do karate and he's a high level aikido specialist. So let's cut the bullshit and have a fair fight instead of this role playing."

Part Two

The Last Seiza – A tale about the last seiza seesion that Master Gozo Shioda conducted

The instructors sat on the mats in two parallel lines. Each instructor faced a counterpart on the opposite line, watching him attentively, with his back erect and chin tucked in – not moving an inch. The hierarchy of the sitting arrangement was simple—at the top of the lines sat the highest grade teachers and at the far end, the lower grades, namely David and I. We had only just completed our senshusei course, our new black-belts paradoxically glowing dark with a touch of blue over our white dogi.

Graduating from the course marked the beginning of our long road to become instructors. It meant arriving at the dojo early every morning, cleaning and tidying the place before training commenced. We would stay at the dojo until the evening, joining in every class and helping out the senior instructors while they taught and demonstrated. The time between classes we spent at the office, standing erect and attentive as the instructors performed their desk duties. We would brew their tea, wash their cups, empty their ashtrays, and when the day was over, fold their hakama and wait until they departed from the building before we went home.

Graduation from the course also meant that every Thursday, at five minutes before one o'clock in the afternoon, we would join the instructors as they stepped onto the mats and sat in seiza for an hour long conversation with the Yoshinkan Aikido founder, Master Gozo Shioda. For an hour and five minutes, to be precise, as the first five minutes were dedicated to politely waiting for the master. A wait in seiza for seiza.

Seiza, loosely translated as the correct way of sitting, was the traditional way in which the samurai, the warrior of old, used to sit. It was a strict posture that kept him alert and focused, allowing him to swiftly react to surprise attacks, or to launch an offence of his own, should one be needed.

In fact, being able to fight from seiza was so vital that almost half of the curriculum was dedicated to suwari-waza, martial techniques performed while moving on the knees. During the senshusei course, we trained for hours on suwari-waza techniques.

"This is crazy," I complained to Payet sensei, the senior foreigner instructor at the dojo, after completing the first suwari-waza session of the course.

"What's crazy?" he asked in his heavy French accent.

"I mean, look at these," I pointed at the red marks that stained my dogi on both knees.

"Oh, the Japanese flag?" he smiled behind his glasses. "The Japanese flag?" I asked.

"Yes. Roll up your dogi pants and you'll see."

I sighed and followed his instruction, my eyes widening to the sight of the red raw flesh that decorated both knees.

"The skin is off," I whined and Payet sensei chuckled.

"Yes," he nodded cheerfully. "And the wound is round and bright red, a taint that stands in contrast to the white of the intact skin. Do you see?"

"Round, red mark on a white background."

"Just like the Japanese flag," he concluded and laughed heartily.

"But what's the point?" I asked when he finally stopped laughing.

"The point?"

"Yes," I said. "It hurts, it’s probably unhealthy, and besides, no one fights on their knees anymore. Why not drop the whole thing?"

He stopped smiling and stared at me for a while, as if looking at a madman.

"But suwari-waza is an amazing tool to develop your aikido," he spoke at long last, his eyes sparkling with inspiration. "When moving on the knees you can't use the length of your legs in order to move swiftly and smoothly. Instead, you are forced to use your hip-power, a practice that ultimately helps shape and strengthens your tachi-waza, the standing techniques."

I could appreciate the wisdom behind Payet sensei's words, but at the same time, couldn’t ignore the pain in both knees and especially the worrying swelling in my left knee. I remember quite a few suwari waza sessions during which the swelling became so severe that it caused the joint to lock. Consequently, I would limp around the dojo until the instructor would bark at me to stop training.

"Go sit in seiza," he would usually order and I would be forced to sit and observe the class, biting my lip against the urge to scream, my mind filled with images of future disabilities. But I endured the pain, regardless of the intensity, knowing all too well that any other plan of action would be considered a failure by all accounts.

There's no rest for the wicked – not in this course. Rumor has it that even when a policeman who participated in the

senshusei course suffered a heart attack, he was written off as 'feeble,' before being sent straight home.

*

A Japanese woman, a mother of two delightful girls, once told me that she would rather go through the pain of childbirth than have to sit in seiza for more than five minutes. I lack the experience to fully agree with her statement, but accept the fact that a prolonged period of time in seiza can be horribly painful. It is a sentiment that was shared by most Japanese instructors at the hombu dojo.

The topic was openly discussed one day during lunch, when all the instructors were sat around the dinning table at the kitchen. We were eating a bento, a Japanese ready-made meal that was delivered to the dojo.

"Why do you sit in seiza, sensei?" David asked Chino sensei, who was the only one sitting on his knees on the chair.

"It's for my training," Chino explained. "My thighs are quite thick and it makes seiza very difficult. So I practice whenever and wherever I can."

His words brought about a discussion regarding the length of time one can tolerate seiza before the pain becomes overwhelming.

"About forty minutes," said Chida sensei, the headmaster and the seiza record holder at the hombu dojo. "After I sit for five minutes," he explained, "my legs fall asleep and I feel zero pain until they wake up again, around thirty five minutes later."

The other side of the scale was represented by no other than Chino sensei, who claimed, to the laughter of the other instructors, that five minutes in seiza was more than enough for him. The pain in his knees must have been excruciating, so much so that after every seiza session he would take up to two minutes just to get up to his feet. From there, he used to shuffle backwards, dragging his straight legs as if they were heavy tree stumps.

"He must be the one who developed the 'Moon Walk'," David said when we first observed Chino getting up from a seiza session. "He's the Japanese equivalent of 'Billy-Jean."

" Michael Jackson is such a cheat," I nodded while my eyes followed Chino as he bowed and moved out of the mat-area, slowly shuffling backward through the long corridor, on his way to the instructor's resting room, where he would collapse to the tatami floor and nurse his agonized limbs.

"Seiza is terrible for the body," I told David.

"That's it? You determined this just by watching Chino?"

"Not only Chino. Didn’t you see how even Master Shioda keeps rubbing his knees when seated in seiza? I bet he hates it just as bad as I do."

"And I think you're just being negative and only see the disadvantages," David scolded me.

"So enlighten me, what do I miss here?"

"The benefits, the fact that seiza is an excellent way to develop spiritually and sensually. Seiza, for example, is a wonderful position for practicing meditation."

"So is the cross-legged position."

"True, but in seiza, it is much easier to remain centered and straight for a long period of time without exerting too much pressure on the spine."

"And instead, exerting a lot of pressure on the poor knees."

"Thank you, Gadi. You've just stated the second benefit of seiza – pain tolerance, you bloody wimp."

"Pain tolerance? Was that what you meant when you spoke of sensual-development, the ability to suffer?"

"Oh, no," he smiled. "Nothing like that. I was only referring to the ability to distinguish which teacher is approaching the tatami by the sound of their feet."

  *

 The tapping sound of tiny feet approached the opening to the dojo.

Instantaneously, my mind was cleared of wondering, and I looked at David who watched the entrance. He outstretched his already over-stretched back and I copied his move. I held my breath as the tapping sound stopped by the mats, preparing myself for the dramatic entrance of the one and only – Master Gozo Shioda.

Although I couldn’t see him, I could clearly envision what he did and when he did it; my ears picking up the slight sound of the master as he dropped to his knees and bowed to the shrine, sensing and hearing him getting up and shuffling to his designated seat at the top of the lined-up instructors. From the corner of my eye I saw him lowering himself down to seiza. To the command of Chida sensei, we bowed, and he began his talk. His voice was sharp and powerful, his palms rubbing his knees as he spoke, moving softly in a circular motion.

The conversation was as strict and as formal as the sitting arrangement. The Master would present the topic of the discussion, and then ask the instructor of his choice to state his views. No one spoke unless spoken to by the master, and the speech had to be clear and to the point.

A few seconds into the talk I shifted my attention to David and the movements of his fingers. I frowned as I tried to read his message. He started again, tapping his thighs, slower this time.

"Sweet," I thought and swallowed a smile, pleased I remembered the code. I indicated my understanding with a few taps of my own. The code is a system of communication that we developed in order to combat the pain and boredom of the situation. Pain – from the obvious reason of sitting in seiza, and boredom, due to what David first believed to be our superficial understanding of the Japanese language and customs.

"We've got to know what's going on," David stressed. "I was told they discuss topics such as training, dojo etiquette, dojo maintenance and who knows what else? We might be missing a valuable lesson here, Gadi."

However, his theory was soon dismissed after we learned the particularities of those conversations from Payet sensei, who spoke impeccable Japanese.

"Master Shioda told us," Payet disclosed after our first session, "that we focus too much on the training and forget our duties. He said he had noticed, on quite a few occasions during the last week, that the toilet-slippers weren't lined up properly."

"So we must make sure they're lined up!" David said and Payet nodded.

"I guess this statement summons up the lesson of the day."

On our next session we were bemused to find out that the lesson of the day was totally the opposite.

"Kancho sensei scolded us for focusing too much on our duties and not enough on the training."

"So shall we pay less attention to the slippers this week?" David asked.

"I think it would be fair to say so."

We kept our hopes up that the topic of the conversation would travel to more profound regions, but after a few more sessions over the same subject, we began to wonder whether our ignorance was actually bliss.

"I can't believe all this ceremony is just to discuss how much attention we should give to those damned toilet-slippers in comparison to training," I complained to Payet sensei.

"I guess it's near impossible to find the right balance between the two," he chuckled.

"But how can you listen to it every week?"

"Listening is easy. The hard part is to speak to the point when Master Shioda asks for my opinion?"

"Why is that?"

"Because I usually fall asleep as soon as the conversation begins."

I heard the command to bow and it took me a second to realize the session was over not a minute after it started. I bowed to David who looked just as baffled as I and the rest of the instructors.

"What's going on?" we asked Payet sensei. "What did kancho say?" Payet glared at us before answering through a parched throat.

"Master Shioda said seiza is very unhealthy for the knees, and that we should stop these conversations all together."

It was indeed the last seiza session that Shioda sensei ever conducted.

i want to be like you… – A Tale about the desire to become as good Aikidoka as Kancho Gozo Shioda

I had never heard of Master Gozo Shioda until the day I entered the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo. In fact, I knew very little of Aikido, and had never heard of the Yoshinkan. Back in Israel, where I used to practice karate and boxing on a regular basis, aikido was virtually an unknown art. My only exposure was a short video clip of Saito Morihiro sensei performing free techniques in nature, the first Steven Seagal movie and a paragraph in a martial arts magazine.

Still, these next-to-nothing details were enough to inflame my imagination and send me on a twenty-four hour journey to Japan. I arrived at the end of August,1989 and was fortunate enough to land in a guesthouse where one of the tenants happened to study at the Yoshinkan Honbu dojo. He said I must come and observe Master Shioda in action. He guaranteed it would change my life. Two days later, I arrived with him at the Yoshinkan Headquarters to observe a Korobikai – a class for the black-belts.

We took our shoes off next to the entrance and walked to the training area. There we found seats among the hordes of spectators who gathered at the back of the hall. In front of us, on the mats, a line of enthusiastic black-belts sat motionless in seiza. My friend explained in a whisper that most of them were instructors. All was quiet, everyone waiting for the Master to arrive. After a couple of minutes, the sound of shuffling feet came close to the opening. The tension in the hall became nearly unbearable as Master Shioda bowed to the shrine on the wall and walked to the center of the mats. He bowed again to the front, turned on his knees and bowed to the students who bowed back. Then he stood up and the show began.

What I observed was beyond all my expectations. It wasn’t martial arts as I knew it, but a class of magical feats. Master Shioda, a tiny old man, was effortlessly throwing around a group of young black-belts by softly touching their bodies with his fingers and hands. The hall was filled with his joyous laughter as he performed, and I couldn’t help thinking what his superpowers might do to a mere human such as me if he so easily could destroy seasoned black-belts. I was so moved that when the lesson ended, I went straight to the office and joined up. I wanted nothing, but to learn his secrets, to become like Master Shioda, a sorcerer who could subdue any opponent.

After a few weeks, I asked one of the foreign instructors, "How does it feel to take his ukemi?"

"If you truly want to know, then you'd better take his ukemi," he answered.

"But only black-belts are allowed to do that."

"Only black-belt instructors!" he corrected, thereby elevating the bar and the level of my anxiety. "Normal black-belts get the chance to occasionally grab the Master's arm, or rarely, may feel his techniques while we, the instructors, serve him all day long." He moved into a lengthy explanation about the nature of that role. He said that a true uke manifests himself through all aspect of the Master's life. "We're dedicated to serve him," he said. "We make his tea, buy his food, open doors for him and drive him around. We bathe him, dry his body, prepare his clothes and dress him. We must read the particularities of his moods, to know what clothes he wishes to wear on what day and even guess the desired temperature of his bath water. Being a true uke is a life of dedication."

Inspired, I took the first step in the direction he was pointing, signing up for the 'Senshusei Course:' the year-long course for the Riot Police. Being a senshusei was a requirement of all students who wished to become a part of the Honbu Dojo staff.

I became an uchi-deshi, a live-in student in the dojo. These were intense times for me, training from morning until nightfall and using the breaks between the aikido sessions to perform millions of cleaning and maintenance jobs. I also had to serve the instructors in the office, make their tea, fold their hakama and keep their work space clean and tidy. I had to stand still and straight in a corner of the room, invisible, out of the way but ready to perform my duties at any given moment. I was, essentially, an office-boy, a boring task, no doubt, but it taught me how to be patient, alert and attentive. I learned how to read various teachers’ moods, behavioral patterns and habits.

"I'm being trained to becoming the perfect uke," I thought, and already envisioned myself being thrown by Master Shioda in front of thousands of spectators. However, I was still far away from that goal, something that was brought home to me by a couple of incidents.

One of the uchi deshi in the Ochiai Dojo was Nishida sensei, a gentle, soft-spoken young man from Hokkaido. Nishida used to teach the kids and beginner classes, but mostly spent his days as Kancho's driver. Even when he wasn’t driving Master Shioda, he would stay alert, keeping close to the phone in case Kancho called and asked for his services. Since my knowledge of the Japanese language was very poor, I was told to keep away from the phone at all cost. However, one morning, when the phone rang for couple of minutes and no one came to pick it up, I was suddenly filled was an urgent sense of purpose, and reached for the receiver. Naturally, I understood nothing of what was said on the other end. I bit my lip and remained quiet. There was a pause and then the voice was raised.

"Chyotto mate – just a moment," I answered innocently, trying to pacify his anxiousness. I stood bemused as a barrage of angry words exploded in my ear. "How rude," I thought and at that moment Nishida Sensei burst into the office. He pulled the receiver from my grip, squinting behind his glasses, bowing to the air as he kept apologizing.

"It was Kancho," he informed me when the conversation was over. I turned pale.

"What did he say?" I mumbled and I now spare readers from repeating the obscene reply.

On another occasion, while I was walking past the corridor leading to Kancho's office, the door suddenly opened and I saw him step out. He turned left and moved toward the toilets that stood across the corridor, his glance sweeping over me. I froze, bowing, waiting for one of the teachers to step out of their office, as they always did, waiting for someone to run forward and serve the man. But no one came. No one noticed he was out. Meanwhile, Kancho had nearly reached the entrance to the toilets, two more steps and he would be forced to open the door by himself, to turn on the light, put on the toilet shoes by himself….

I was the only one to save the moment! My time had come! I took a deep breath and ran forward, in my mind running over everything I needed to do, acts I had seen performed so many times: turn on the light, open the door, step in, prepare the toilet shoes, wait for the Master to slide his feet in; stand by while he relives himself and pray it’s only number one; replace the shoes, turn on the tap, hold out a towel, replace the towel on its hook, turn off the tap; turn off the light, run to his office and open the door.

That's all. A piece of cake. Anyone can do that!

I managed to reach the door before Master Shioda, and I served him like a machine. He never acknowledged me as I shuffled about in his service, not once looking at me until all was done and he was half way back to the office where I stood at attention, ready to open the door. Then he stopped and looked back, muttering to himself. He brushed me off with a gesture of his wrist and walked back to the toilets to turn off the light that I had forgotten to switch off. I had failed again.

Every Thursday, at two o'clock in the afternoon, the Senshusei had to sit in Seiza and observe Kancho delivering his Korobikai class. The class was a treat, despite the excruciating pain we felt in our knees. It was an opportunity to watch the Master perform his magical tricks on the instructors, our tormentors at the time. It was during these sessions that sinful thoughts regarding the role of uke began to creep into my mind.

Since Kancho was a celebrated Martial Artist in Japan, there were many occasions where politicians, famous sportsmen and TV presenters would come to observe and interview the man. Many of them would also ask for a private demonstration and Master Shioda would always oblige. I remember the first time I watched one of these sessions, how I was certain Kancho would demolish the skinny TV personnel who held his arm with a cocky expression. I thought the poor bastard had no chance – he was not a black-belt, definitely not an instructor. I remember sneaking a glance at the office window, wondering if anyone was already calling an ambulance to evacuate the remains of the man.

Kancho applied a lock on the wrist, and for a moment I held my breath, expecting his opponent's body to freeze where he stood and then crash down to the ground in a heap of flesh and bones. But nothing dramatic happened. The man slightly bent forward from the pressure while giggling and complaining of the pain in his arm. The same happened to all the other outsiders who came for a demonstration. I was puzzled. Could it be that I had been wrong all this time? Could it be that the amazing feats of the Master only worked on trained instructors? Was it magic applied only on those who really wanted it to happen, to those who committed their lives to read his every move in order to react to his touch? The implications of this thought were huge. It could completely change the way the art presented itself.

In my distress, I approached Mark Baker, a New Zealander who was also part of the Honbu Dojo staff. Mark was one of Kancho's favorite uke. He listened to my heathen suggestions, laughed heartily and then patiently explained where I had gone wrong. "Believe me," he said. "When Kancho touches you with full intention, there is no other option but to comply. If it didn’t happen to the people you observed then it's only because Kancho decided not to inflict his full power on them."

Then he presented his arm and asked me to poke his outstretched palm, which was one of Kancho's favorite tricks at the time. I followed his instruction, and suddenly his whole body locked. A scream escaped his lips as he flew through the air in a perfect ukemi. He crashed to my feet, still attached to my finger, his body twitching on the floor as if electrocuted by some unseen force field that extended from my finger. "Just like that," he concluded after he jumped back to his feet. He left me staring at the mats and walked off giggling, allowing my confusion to reach new heights.

David, my partner during the Senshusei Course, had had enough of my complaints. "Why can't you have some patience?" he cried. "Soon we'll have our black belt test and you'll feel his technique yourself."

During the next few months I was consumed by the preparation for the black-belt test. Training was intensive, the body and mind pushed to the limit. I had no time to indulge in my sinful thoughts. However, they returned to haunt me as soon as the test was over and I tied the black belt around my hips.

The next Thursday, I lined up with the Black-Belts on the tatami. My heart was pounding in my chest when, after five long minutes of waiting in seiza, I heard the shuffling feet of the Master approaching. We bowed low when he entered the dojo as if a god from Olympus had just landed in our midst. We remained motionless, with our heads touching the floor as he knelt on the mats in the middle of the dojo. He bowed to the shrine, bowed to the students and moved straight into a short lecture. The talk was followed by a demonstration with one of the instructors. It was an unusual application of Nikkajo. When he finished we got up, found partners and began practicing. We tried to mimic him, but of course, none of us succeeded.

All the while, Kancho walked among us. He fixed postures, corrected mistakes and sometimes demonstrated on the students. Although I trained with David, I couldn’t concentrate on the technique, my eyes roaming the room, searching for the Master. When he finally came over, I found it hard to contain my excitement. He stood behind me and chuckled as I held David's wrist and tried to apply the technique. He came to my side, smiled and placed his little hand on my spine, right between the shoulder blades. A sigh escaped from David's lips. His whole body tensed for a second and then he dropped to the ground. I frowned and stared at him, deep in thought and confusion. Kancho laughed and moved on.

"What just happened?" I whispered to David.

"I'm not quite sure," he said with a blank expression. "All I know is that one second, I was standing here in front of you and in the next I found myself on the floor."

A few more times during the lesson, Kancho came to our side and helped us materialize his tricks. He touched our backs, corrected our postures and even demonstrated directly on our eager hands. It always worked, no matter who applied what or how badly the performance was. The sensation or rather the lack of sensation that I felt was similar to the one David described. All I knew was that one second I stood and the next I was on the ground. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what happened in the space between the two.

"So what do you think now?" David asked when the class was over. "Does it work or not?"

"It definitely works on me," I smiled shyly.

"Good," he smiled back. "Now all that is left is to try to assess how he does his 'Thing'."

But the 'How' was not my main concern. I wanted to know the 'Why' and 'What'. Why Kancho's amazing technique worked? Was it due to technical merit alone, or because we so desperately wanted it to happen, because we are trained to make it happen?

During the following weeks, my partners in the Korobikai changed, but the outcome remained the same. The techniques worked only when Kancho intervened in the process and it didn’t matter whether it was Chida shihan or David who happened to be my partner. What also remained the same was the fact that I couldn’t assess what Kancho did. All I could remember was the beginning and the end – the middle part – a misty and impenetrable cloud in my mind.

Sadly, three months after I joined the Korobikai, fate put a brutal end to my research. It came in the shape of an illness that forced Kancho to cancel the classes until the day he recovered. But he never recovered, the disease slowly consuming his vitality, and in the end, it took his life.

I was left without answers. It had to be felt – it was felt – but I still can't fully understand the 'What', the 'Why' and definitely not the 'How'.

גדי שור

גדי שור שיהאן, בעל דרגת דאן-7 ביושינקאן אייקידו ונסיון של 27 שנות הדרכת אייקידו. בעברו הדריך גדי בבית הספר הראשי ליושינקאן אייקידו ביפן.
גדי החל את דרכו באייקידו בשנת 1989, כשהגיע ליפן והחל להתאמן באדיקות בבית הספר המרכזי ליושינקאן אייקידו בטוקיו, תחת פיקוחו של מייסד השיטה, מאסטר גוזו שיודה. לאחר חצי שנה של אימונים מפרכים, הצטרף גדי לקורס המיוחד לשוטרים של בית הספר – קורס הסנשוסא, אותו סיים בהצלחה.

לאחר הקורס הוא השתלב בצוות ההדרכה בדוג'ו ונטל חלק פעיל בכל פעילויות בית הספר, לרבות בהדרכת קורס המאמנים לזרים. במסגרת שנותיו כמדריך בדוג'ו, גדי הגיע לדרגת דאן 4 ואף הוענקה לו תעודת הדרכה ייחודית ממאסטר גוזו שיודה בכבודו ובעצמו.
לאחר פטירתו של מאסטר שיודה בשנת 1994, גדי חזר לישראל ופתח את בית הספר הראשון שלו ברמת חן. במשך שנים עמל גדי רבות לביסוס השיטה בישראל ואף הקים מרכז לשיטה באנגליה וביפן. בעשור האחרון חנך עוד שני בתי ספר בישראל. בלכיש ובנס ציונה.
בשנת 2017, הוענק לו התואר שיהאן – רב אומן, כהוקרה והערכה לפעילותו רבת השנים.
בנוסף, בשנת 2018 הוענקה לגדי דרגת דאן 7, הדרגה הגבוהה בישראל.