Weekend Aikido in Alabama

The umbrella organization for my aikido dojo (American Tomiki Aikido Association) held its semi-annual seminar/clinic this past weekend. It was, in name, the Spring Seminar delayed by several months by all sorts of things.

6 dojos and 5 cities were represented by the attendees. We had: Nick Lowry's Windsong Dojo (Oklahoma City), Frankie Canant's Kumayama Dojo (Bessemer, Alabama), Tim Cleghorn's Clear Creek Dojo (Houston), Jeff Duncan's Full Circle Dojo (Killeen, Tx), two folks from West Houston, and two folks from Arlington, Texas.

Totaled up there were 22 aikidoka and, at the start of the weekend, 15 yudansha. At the end of the weekend there were 17 yudansha. And, a day or two after the seminar, we found out that Frankie Canant is to be promoted to Rokudan! I have no idea what the total number of dan grades were, but we had an amazing group to work with. This was the biggest group I've ever worked with and the most experienced group by far.

Trey, Tim and I flew out to Birmingham Friday morning. we were the only folks who flew to this gathering, everyone else drove. 12 hours on the road does not thrill me, but maybe it would have been the better approach? We arrived early in the afternoon and headed to Frankie's place. Most of the folks were already there, so we got the chance to renew friendships and make some new ones before heading over to the local Y for the first session.

I think the first session was spent working on what will likely be a new kata at some point in the future. A groundwork kata! Jeff Duncan had been playing with ideas in his dojo and presented them to us to learn, play with and improve.

His base for the groundwork was Ju Nana Hon Kata. Translate as many of those techniques to be usable from the ground. If I remember correctly, the following techniques have analogs on the ground: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12. It was interesting and challenging working with these ideas and trying to figure out where the appropriate off-balances are. We also played with height differentials on the ground. They do make a difference.

At one point my partner and I were working on one of them and thought we saw a spot where uke would be likely to collapse in on tori. Sensei Lowry called me over to try doing that on him. I still feel where his elbows were pointing into my chest. Ouch.

We did some exploration of tweaks to make to some of the releases. The first release you can flip your wrist over and will generate a nice body drop. The second release, if uke turns inside you can pretend to be the Queen of England waving and then get a nice arm wraparound. The second release, if uke turns outside, you can get a nice wrist lock (my notes are incomplete on this). The fourth release can turn into the 7th release which then morphs into kaitenage. At that point if toir attempts to put his finger through uke's ear, uke will do a nice whole body rotation before hitting the ground. You can also, on the fourth release, point the fingers on your knife-hand down and get a nice body drop. We also played with shihonage and if it doesn't feel right at the fourth off-balance, you can release your hand from the grip and get a nice ushiro-ate.

We then adjourned back to Frankie's place for beer, food and conversation.

The next morning we convened back at the Y for another session. We did some more exploration of the groundwork and then did some work on randori. Normally, we do the randori where there is no designated uke or tori, both players try to find an off-balance, an opening, or a mistake by the other. This time we tried assigning a role to each player and working from there.

One of the folks I worked with was Sensei Lowry. OMG. He toasted me so often, and I was supposed to be tori. He felt the slightest amount of tension in my hands and arms and was able counter 98% of what I did. I did manage to find an opening two, or maybe 3, times.

One of the things he noticed was that when working with him, I was directing my center perpendicular to his. If I managed to point my center through him, things were more likely to go my way (if I also had very little tension in my arms).

I'm not certain I took as much advantage of that opportunity as I could, but I'm still glad I had the opportunity.

We then broke for lunch back over at Frankie's.

We came back after lunch, but I can't remember what we worked on. We then had two Shodan demonstrations. Congrats to Russell Stewart (who was the uke for my Shodan demonstration last November) and Jamey Best. Jamey had real struggles as his back was quite painful, but he made it through.

We then went back to Frankie's place for a great spread provided by his wonderful wife Joy. After dinner there was more drinking, and storytelling long into the night.

We flew back home on Sunday. We tried to change our flights to get back earlier, but it would have cost us $50 each. It wasn't worth, even though we sat in the airport for about 4 hours.

I'm not certain how many different folks I worked with over the weekend, let's see if I can come up with most of the names: Sensei Lowry, Allen, Larry, Paul, Christian, Cameron, Russell, Steve, ........


Joy&Frankie said...

Wow, Scott. Thank you! I was ecstatic with the turnout we had for the event, and I hope we are able to have more weekends to come with this many people and that many teachers. The weekend ended too early and I was unprepared to let go of so many of my friends so soon for y'all to go home. I'm looking forward to our next get-together.