Contributed by Al Krever of Arizona Aikikai
When Arizona Aikido decided to alter our own Prescott Camp into a bridge seminar format we were encouraged by the prospect of other groups getting into the spirit by having their own. So it was with great excitement that we learned of Aikido Seishinkan Dojo of Ft. Washington Pennsylvania's decision to host the first such seminar in the eastern region. This was held from May 7th thru the 10th at David Goldberg Sensei's great dojo in the beautiful (and Canadian Goose infested) area Northwest of Philadelphia. There were too many trees for me but I live in a desert...what can I say.
A truly remarkable roster of senior instructors from various associations and federations taught including our own Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, Nanadan, originator of the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminars, and Rick Stickles Shihan, Nanadan of Aikido Schools of N.J. The mat was populated by students of both ASU and USAF as well as a group from as far away as Istanbul Turkey who accompanied Ayhan Kaya Sensei on this trip. Classes were presented by Don Moock Sensei of ASU, Laura Jacobs Pavlick Sensei of the USAF, Rick Robinson Sensei who is a Jujitsu Rokukdan and partner in the River of Life Martial Arts and Wellness Center with David Goldberg of ASU.
Ikeda Sensei's opening remarks were in keeping with the spirit of the Bridge. One must approach training with "An open mind and an open heart". Having the variation in training styles available is not enough. One must also be capable of letting go of established patterns to get the most out of new ones.
For those of you who have followed my little essays on these training experiences you will find that I tend to see an implied theme/thread to the weekend. Typically I have no preconception nor any plan as to my commentary but the folks at the Arizona dojo were curious about what I would notice about the difference in training on the east coast as opposed to the west. The west coast types imagine that the easterners are more "hardcore" while the east coasters think the westerners are all from La-La land (a euphemistic term for the supposedly more mystically oriented Los Angeles area where it is assumed that all aikidoists are attempting to levitate rather than take ukemi). It might surprise you that I found no such differences. Each session at the East Coast Bridge had the same mix of hard and soft technique that one would expect anywhere in the world. I left just as sore as I did from the San Diego Bridge. Of course at my age I was kind of sore going in...oh well.
Stickles Sensei taught a number of classes concentrating on entry line and axis. As one would expect his art was quite powerful and his finishing style recognizably influenced by such greats as Yamada Shihan, Chiba Shihan and the late Osawa and Kanai Shihan. Where ASU training gives Uke a chance to exit a technique without hard ukemi Stickle Sensei's finish is noticeably more martial with a tendency to accelerate into the finish. Ikeda Sensei on the other hand is interested in the internal aspects of Aikido and this is expressed in his instruction in subtle kusushi practice. The two styles are, however, both highly martial and suitable for both soft and hard forms. This is not to say that Stickles Sensei's art is purely physical. He is motivated by a deep study of a Tibetan style of meditation which utilizes a form of hyper attenuated mindfulness as a way of dissipating the self. He was kind enough to teach a short meditation training that was, if I may say, an eye-opener.
An interesting break from standard waza was Rick Robinson Sensei, Jujitsu Rokudan, class on classic choking techniques. We don't get to practice these very often and Rick Sensei's skill in this area is encyclopedic. While choking is a major part of martial hand arts we in the Aikido world usually only see them in Kubishime forms (either direct front or one armed from behind). We rarely if ever get to apply a choke for effect. I was impressed by how quickly someone can be subdued by a simple choke.
As an added attraction the dojo provided a banquet, pizza party and an outing to an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant. I miss east coast cooking and having been raised in New York City I particularly miss the pizza. Thanks David for the nostalgic break. When in Philadelphia it is most important to sample the Cheese-Steak sandwiches as well.
David Goldberg Sensei, Godan ASU, concentrated on certain aspects of Marubashi alternating between bokken and hand arts to illustrate his points. The strong entry line of the sword blade and the entering into that blade's edge without leaving the narrow bridge defines the Marubashi principal. Since we are bombarded with "get off the line" all the time, direct entry is a very important alternative lesson. To perform this type of entry David emphasized a purity of intent when facing the blade.
Laura Jacobs Pavlick Sensei of Lichfield Hills Conn. and a Shidoin in the USAF world taught a wonderful class. In keeping with the implied theme of the seminar she taught a series of techniques that emphasized the importance of entry line. I was uniquely impressed by her particularly lovely variation of Kaiten Nage, I'm still recovering from it.
Don Moock Sensei, Rokudan ASU, taught a number of his signature techniques. I've always found his work to be very terse and insightful. Moock Sensei comes up with very original ways of expressing some of the fundamentals of Aikido waza as well as variations that one just doesn't see anywhere else. He has a wonderful exit pin from Kotegaeshi that I have seen no one else in the States perform. I will steal it and incorporate it in my classes...once I can actually perform it consistently.
Winning the prize for Senseis who have traveled the farthest to teach was Ayhan Kaya Sensei, Istanbul, Yondan ASU. He taught both from suwariwaza and standing. The arts presented were best described as "half-mat" or what we sometime call "phone booth" techniques. Tight and clean movement using a rather sophisticated joint locking form against the shoulder and ending in an immobilizing pin. I might note that while Ayhan Sensei's techniques were potentially agonizing and were delivered with considerable strength, he did this with a strange and kindly smile on his face throughout.
All in all this was a great start to what I hope is a continuing tradition of East coast Bridge seminars at River of Life. Dave Goldberg and his crew were wonderfully attentive hosts. Already looking forward to next year in Philadelphia.