I was discussing today with another instructor about an old video that I had posted regarding ukemi. He commented that he had never heard anyone explain what I was demonstrating in the way that I explained it. I get this a lot in my teaching. I am different to everyone else, no one talks about the importance of feet as much as you, no one emphasises position like you, no one emphasis weight distribution as much as you, and so on and so on….I worked hard to develop a way to do my basic technique without ever compromising principles that I had come to believe were intrinsic to the art, core fundamentals that had been handed down to me from my teachers.
I took these fundamentals to be absolutes in all relationships in the art and applied them this way.
Centre is fundamental. Centre pole is fundamental. The heart chakra is fundamental to centre to centre connection. It can be esoteric, it’s basis is in ukemi, not in the stars…
When I receive I keep the centre of my sternum at the centre of my partner until I can no longer, I never ever turn away and even if the movement requires I must, I seek to reconcile this connection above all else. It is for this ver reason my ukemi looks different.
Ki is fundamental. Ki is energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, energy never retreats, never contracts and never gives up. Therefore in my ukemi I will continue to move my centre forward at all times until I can no longer maintain stability due to outside influence. This extension to my partner makes ukemi look different to the norm, as uke is no longer just about falling.
Preservation of life is fundamental. I am aware of my vulnerabilities in relation to my partner and move myself accordingly. I am also aware of my partners strengths and vulnerabilities at any given moment. This is a martial mind a Budo mind. This is not a fighting mind. Passive aggressive people with huge egos have fighting mind. Fighting people have self preservation mind. Understanding the differences in these two approaches is essential to the art. It helps develop awareness and an innate ability to perceive threat, thereby avoiding it. Just avoiding threat creates complacency, this complacency is the opposite of what true Budo is about. Uke moves differently when they understand this relationship, and act according to their awareness.
Being is fundamental. This moment is all that exists. I poor my essence into the eternal now without thought to future or past. I fulfil my role without anticipation of outcome, without thought to technique or preservation of self. In all that I do I give my utmost understanding that this is the true essence of being. Mindful of each action and each breath. Uke then can receive the true teaching, the heart teaching true transmission is only passed through true “being”.
Relaxation is fundamental. Relaxation can be surrender. Holding tension can be a defeat. A relaxed body is adaptable, a stiff body is rigid and easily broken. A relaxed body is a conduit for transmission of the partners intent, constantly relaying messages through subtle bio feedback that happens through the point of connection. An uke that knows this can even close their eyes and always end up in the same position.
In all my decades of aikido all around the world whilst training I have only ever met one person that was truly relaxed – relaxation is both in mind and body, but is easily discerned when watching ukemi, even the very act of thinking that you are relaxed means you are not, knowing this is also fundamental.
Body of stone is fundamental. Being immovable both in mind and body is the essence of Budo. No matter how much static testing you have done, if you haven’t sorted your feet and your centre pole you absolutely cannot be stable in motion no matter how much you dream you can. If your motion “pitches” your centre pole you are not stable. If your technique shifts your gravity centre unknowingly you are not stable. If your weight shits to the outside of your feet in motion you are not stable. If you over extend and lift your heels you are not stable. If you bounce your centre without knowing reason your are unstable. If you are airborne you are not stable. All these aspects must be analysed and addressed to grasp the essence of this fundamental. It is intrinsically linked to maintaining one point, but it is no use talking of the latter until all the former are understood, a good uke would know this and work towards addressing these in their movements.
Shoshin is fundamental.
Sensei’s first lesson to me is the last lesson anyone should ever need.
In my country, of the hundreds that attended that fateful first Yuishinkai seminar 2 decades ago only 2 of us remain. Sensei spoke first of Shoshin before any bodies were even moved, of the need to free the mind of any preconceived idea about what aikido was, what style was and open both heart and mind to explore with him, the true message of the founder.
No one can learn what they think they already know, and sensei has evolved each day and each moment since I have met him. We are what we repeatedly do. The pursuit of excellence is the pursuit of the Devine in all of us, it’s in our actions not in our words, it’s the fundamental essence of the nature of the universe- undying and absolute love.