Monday, April 11, 2016

Changing Tides.

Each day I pass old empty buildings where Karate Schools once operated, empty, vacant, with signs in them that read 'Nai Black - For Lease.'
There is even an old Jujitsu school that once taught Brazillian Jujitsu up on Francis that is closed, the paint still in the window, chipped and worn, but not faded.

Maybe it is a sign of the time, but this is supposed to be a time of economic growth, or maybe that is just a symptom of commercialism, who can say?
It just seems as though the community is becoming smaller and smaller, while some schools are adapting, moving into smaller spaces or into places off the beaten path, away from main roads, some even closing their doors due to the death of famous Teachers and no one taking up the torch within the area that an entire Organization once called home.

This leaves only some of the most hard core people left standing and, with time working the way it works and age setting in, it makes one wonder where these places will be after their respective Teachers pass on or retire, whether a Senior of theirs will pick things up or whether their Students will scatter to the wind?
Some of the best training is not found in fancy Dojo or commercial settings, some of the best training might be found in s School Cafeteria or a Rec area set up in a Church practically in the middle of nowhere and they do not really advertise other than word of mouth and do not make profit from what they do.
These people are sometimes the first people hit when things go south, but, more often than not, they are usually the ones able to keep going because they can adapt, they do not have to worry about what others worry about, but these types of Programs and Schools are very rare and often hard to find if you do not know people who know people.

One such School is actually facing the fact that they are no longer going to have a place to train come May, but they are pushing on through the summer months by training in parks, as I do, although they face a hardship of possibly losing Students over the Winter Months if they do not find an indoor place to train.
They host a wide variety of Programs from Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, to European Broad Sword, and their Chief Instructor is also a Student of Jujitsu at Newborn Cascao Jujitsu up on Monroe under James Weed.
They cater to youth, primarily, and host a program for Home School Children and this is one of the Classes that faces shut down as they transition.

I remember when the Dojo on Callow shut down, it was a sad day even though many of the Students continued, for a time, at a local Fire Department under Jeff Iller Sensei, but the Program did not last long and Iller Sensei went on to other things.
The Dojo had been my childhood, my home, for a very long time, even when I was away, it was still my home and, even though it is now a Tattoo Parlor, that building still holds a special meaning for me as an adult.
I know that buildings are buildings and things change, all things end, but it if there is something good offered by something and a Child, or anyone for that matter, gains something from it then it should continue for as long as possible.

Check out Mount Spokane Martial Arts on Facebook and if you know of a place in the Spokane area that they might be able to call home let them know, it would be a shame for these people to have to call it quits, especially with the dedication their Chief Instructor has shown, not only in Teaching, but in continued learning... A true example of Sho Shin, or Beginner's Mind.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Foot Work.

Lately I have been thinking about Footwork versus Stances after going over some basic Aikido footwork in the eight directional diagram.
There is a basic 'Guard' called Hanmi one takes up and moves through at various points, but really no stances, just Footwork.

This is where Karate is confused, I feel, because there was the imposition of standardization from outside which inhibited the natural way of doing things, thus, things became more rigid and we ended up with various names for things in order to accommodate standardized syllabus.
The Japanese love their Standards and the Okinawan Karateka were very keen to be seen as fully assimilated to Japanese Culture rather than be shunned, some of them even receiving payment for their loyalty and efforts to promote assimilation into Japanese Culture and Customs.

This is not meant to be an Anti-Japanese rant, that is there to light the way back in order that we may understand just what it is we are doing as, obviously, the way of Aikido is a Japanese way based on Japanese Standards and is NOT as rigid as Karate had become, thus leading one to feel that the Okinawans were a bit over zealous in their efforts.

What happens when we remove the word 'Dachi' and replace it with something like 'Ashi' similar to the way Aikido utilizes terms like 'Ayumi Ashi' to describe a principle of motion, like stepping, or Tenkan for turning, or Irimi for stepping inside, or Irimi-Tenkan for stepping inside with immediate turn??
What happens when Sanchin Dachi is no longer seem as a 'thing' but a 'process??' Does this take away from Karate or add a deeper level of understanding?? Most would cry foul because it is 'not a traditional way of looking at it,' to which I argue it is a deeper level of understanding a VERY traditional concept.

What happens when Zenkutsu Dachi becomes just a long forward shift and you look at it more in terms of, say, Irimi??
Saifa, for example, has an example of where it is utilitzed as Irimi with partial Tenkan into what we, presently, call Musubi Dachi before dropping into Shiko Dachi.
Drop the 'Dachi' and find another way to describe these movements as less static and rigid, more dynamic and alive, more to do with the movement of the Center, or Hara, and not so much as 'fixed positions.'

Sensei once said someone about the 'formless form' and had pointed me towards a book called 'Kodo: Ancient Ways' written by Reverend Kensho Furuya, a Zen Priest and Aikido Sensei.
This was my first introduction to the idea of Shu, Ha, and Ri... One learns to emulate, one learns to variate/deviate, then one breaks free and is no longer bound by outward forms, but internal Principles that have become their own.
In this way ALL ways become one way and there is no differentiation because they all apply to one another to varying degrees based upon the manner in which they are applied by each individual.