© 2012 niall. All rights reserved.

aikido and magic

If you don’t believe in magic you might want to stop reading this now.

I’m not talking about the Magic of an Aikido Throw. The magic I saw when I saw my teacher Asoh Sensei in his seventies effortlessly tossing a big ex-marine around like a slice of bread.

That wasn’t magic. That was kokyu ryoku.   And I’m not talking about the Magic of the Disappearing Aikidoka. I went to a summer camp in La Colle-sur-Loup in the south of France in the eighties with Yamada Sensei and Tamura Sensei. One of my roommates training beside me whispered to me, “Hey, my partner keeps disappearing!” So I watched and sure enough at the moment of the strike my friend blinked and his partner used that instant to disappear behind him. Maybe that was what ninja used to give the impression of invisibility.

That wasn’t magic. That was timing and misdirection.

And I’m not talking about the Magic of the Healed Wrist. Once I had injured my wrist and training was extremely painful. On Wednesday evenings I was the uke for Arikawa Sensei for two classes at the Aikikai hombu dojo. Arikawa Sensei was the best teacher at the hombu dojo and I was his uke for many years. He was a feared teacher and his waza were unforgiving. So that week I taped my wrist visibly and hoped he would take the hint. No chance. That night he did mostly kote gaeshi and shiho nage. And mostly on the injured wrist. I wasn’t really surprised that he attacked the wrist. When I started taking the ukemi for him in 1990 my hair was longer and once he suddenly stood on it in the middle of an immobilization. Uh oh. Weak point (suki). Of course I got my hair cut immediately. So this time by attacking my wrist I thought he was just telling me not to show my weak point. Somehow I got through it and when I spoke to him later before I went home he smiled enigmatically and didn’t mention the wrist. But then the next day when I woke up the pain in my wrist had completely disappeared. Wow! Arikawa Sensei had been treating me by throwing me using that wrist.

That wasn’t magic (at least I don’t think so!). That was katsu (or kappo). Healing techniques. The sword that gives life instead of the sword that takes life.

But I am talking about the Magic of the Mysterious Scratches. It’s a true story about when Arikawa Sensei died. He was a great budoka and a great teacher but he had one bad habit – he would let his nails grow a little long. So often he would leave cuts or scratches on the back of my neck. For example if he was doing irimi nage his non-throwing hand would control my neck – and maybe if there was sweat on my neck or if the technique was very fast he would leave marks like a lion or a tiger. I hadn’t trained with him for many weeks while he was sick in hospital before his death. Then when I woke up the day after he died I had scratches on my neck again. So I felt he came to say goodbye.

That was magic.

And hey, I warned you.


very cool photo: A Glorious Dawn by Tom Blackwell

This article was originally published on the aikido site aikiweb.  

Aqui la traducción en español.  

Hier die Deutsche Übersetzung.

© niall matthews 2010

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