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TAA Newsletter

Fall 2015

Forward to Friend

Inside this Issue

Moving up (Promotions)

One Hell of a Pick up Team

Worldwide Sport Aikido Federation - Update

Your Aikido

Tanto Randori is a Terrible Game

Australia: Antipode, Animals, and Aikido
Feels Wrong Not to Swing

Why did I ever come back?

Jedi Aikido

Featured Article

Announcements


 

Moving Up

Recent Promotions

We are pleased to announce the following promotions.  Congratulations to all! 

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) & Mesa College – Bob Dziubla Shihan
Michael Shaw – 3rd kyu (green belt)
Chioko MacNeill – 4th kyu (orange belt)
Ruth Reinicke – 5th kyu (yellow belt)


Mansfield Tomiki Aikido Club, Mansfield, Ohio - Bob King
David Winans - 5th kyu
Grace Zader - 6th kyu


Bay Area Shodokan Aikido (Berkeley, CA) - Warren Pottebaum and Ash Morgan
Garth Wallace - Sandan
Nate Pearson - 1st kyu (blue belt)

Intel Aikido Club, Santa Clara, California - Shane Branch and Ash Morgan
Kate Wang - Shodan
Minh-Anh Vu - Shodan
Tim Parker - Shodan
Robert Mayer - Shodan
Ilya Brailovsky - Shodan

University of Southern California (USC) Shodokan Aikido Club - Mark Colopy and Spyro Spyropoulos-Spears 
Princeton Legree - 2nd kyu
Ewa Tymoszewska - 3rd kyu
Ran Liu - 3rd kyu
Angel Orellana - 4th kyu

UNC Aikido Club Promotions - Erik Townsend
Barbara Zemskova - 1st kyu
Andrew Graczyk - 1st kyu 
Alec Niccum - 3rd kyu
Doug Ryder - 4th kyu
Chris Miller - 4th kyu
Vimy Usage Dang - 5th kyu
Alan Cat - 5th kyu
Daniel Chiquito - 5th kyu
Kaylin Vanvoorhies - 5th kyu

One Hell of a Pick Up Team

The Team TAA contingent first met face to face on 8/25/15, in the lobby of the Watermark Hotel, the social center of the 2015 Gold Coast Australia Aikido World Championships.  Recruitment for this squad had been tough, the cost of airfare alone, not to mention the time invested in travelling such distances, had made this event impossible for most TAA members to attend. We were able to gather a commitment from a small, solid contingent of TAA regulars who had all been to internationals before. Few of us were close to each other geographically except for two members in Baltimore therefore inter-team practice was essentially non-existent. So this was the first chance we’d had to sort out the events, finalize kata pairings, set up the kongodantaisen (mixed team event) and men’s teams. The entire team hadn’t arrived yet: present were William Ball and Robert Brandon from Baltimore, Wade Current and Bob King from Ohio, Charlie Hudson from Maine, Mike Wood from California and Ilya Solonitsyn from Moscow, Russia.  Who from where? Ilya Solonitsyn was a ringer we had snuck onto Team TAA; due to finances he was the only representative of the Russian Aikido Association able to attend the festival. In a stealthy recruiting maneuver Bob Dzuibla shihan asked him to join Team TAA and he agreed.  I was very glad to hear this as I had seen him play randori and do kata at a few internationals, and although he was scheduled for judging kata we were still getting a very experienced randori player for the men’s team. Missing the meeting and arriving the next day were Tiffany Doan, Ian King and Antonio Gonzalez. Antonio was another last minute addition; he had taken an injured Sean Flynn’s place literally within the last two weeks. Those who were present agreed to meet the next day for a practice session, the first we would have as a team. This was essentially a ten person pick up team.

The next day we gathered at the hotel and set out to the work out area we had selected, the group having grown by Antonio and Tiffany and Ian. Wade Current and I had scouted out a small greenspace near the hotel, acceptable for an initial practice session. The place was…interesting. A picnic table and scrub grass next to a river, a few pine trees next a parking lot. A few rocks here and there, some broken glass that we policed from the area and it was pretty safe to take ukemi, sort off.  Luckily that day we had gotten some good news, we were finally given the itinerary for the festival. The next two days had seminars in the mornings, followed by lunch on site at the venue and open mats for the entire afternoon. Woo hoo! Team TAA would get three days of practice together.  We organized some more, the kata pairs did some kata, varied input was given and considered, we held interesting discussions on shidokan versus shodokan applications of the junanahon and goshin katas, we all concurred we should demonstrate shodokan applications (duh), then we finally let them just practice and figure it out for themselves. Then we did some tanto randori, trying to be safe and careful on our improvised practice facility. After a couple of hours we called it a day, practice session one was over, our pickup team had gathered.

Day one of the Festival arrived, and Tomiki Aikidoka from all over the world gathered at the Tallebudgera Leisure Centre, over 200 strong, to practice and play Tomiki Aikido. That morning we had our first team set back. Michael Wood had pulled something in his back at the green space, he was out as a kata partner with Antonio in the freestyle enbu. Luckily we were able to recruit Rob Brandon as a substitute uke and he learned the kata Mike and Antonio had put together the day before.

The seminars were wonderful workouts, covering lots of material and moving fast: Shihan demonstrates, group up, rep, rep, rep, switch partner, rep, rep, rep; Nariyama shihan’s typical Shodokan teaching style. The Leisure Centre itself was a nice space, 3 tatami courts gave us plenty of room in which to practice. But we shared a huge open indoor area with a series of basketball and soccer games happening on the other side of a large curtain, very noisy and distracting, making it unusually hard to hear drill commands and Nariyama Shihan’s seminars. Despite that over the two days we covered the basic drill progressions from awase, to shote awase, to the gashouke and bogyo variations. Another excellent review was of the tanto kaeshiwaza set, which was great for my memory.  The major theme of the sessions was a review of the Kihon no Kuzushi, which Nariyama shihan then connected to Goshin kata by demonstrating how different tachi waza moves from goshin kata utilize the three levels of kuzushi. He then demonstrated variations of various dai san techniques, most if not all of which were techniques present in the sets for 4th, 5th and 6th dan ranks. Interestingly enough we covered a lot of this same material back in 1999 at the Brisbane, Australia Festival, particularly the kihon no kuzushi. But this time it made a lot more sense! Thanks go out to the many helpful co-instructors we were able to cover all this material efficiently and smoothly, ensuring through rotations that we got to share our aikido practice with a wide variety or players.
 

Day two afternoon brought new team concerns while everyone got in as much practice time as they could. Ian King got a swollen, badly bruised toe from doing “light” randori practice with a Brit, making suwariwaza in san kata problematic. As Bob Dzuibla shihan said on the ride home, “broken toes and fingers don’t count”, and Ian wrapped it up and played on. Next William Ball discovered that night he was allergic to beet root, slices of which were ubiquitously present on any burger, fish burger, or random sandwich made in Australia, all of which we ate at the aforementioned Tallebudgera Leisure Centre’s cafeteria (actually a nice facility, if you weren’t allergic to beetroot). The beetroot caused him to break out in hives, made his skin turn red and itch, swell, etc., symptoms pretty typical of an anaphylactic allergic type of reaction. Great…and off he was to the chemist (drug store) to find some Benedryl to relieve his symptoms so he could do kata and play randori the next day.  Meanwhile Bob Dzuibla, Wade Current and I got to go to referee and judging clinic, getting schooled in how to watch for penalties and how to protect the players.  

Day Three was the official start of the competition. Speakers spoke, the pledge was read and the games began. Dzuibla shihan, Current sensei and I each joined our respective international referee teams, and competitors headed to their respective courts. I was assigned  to judge junanahon and freestyle enbu events, and there was a lot of good kata presented as expected in an SAF tournament. After katas, we moved on to kongodantaisen and then individual and team randori, taking up the next two days. I learned a lot, got coached and corrected on my refereeing skills in and watched a lot of good randori. The highlight of my refereeing was being assigned a corner in the men’s individual final match.

The Team USA/TAA highlight came on day four as TAA Team A played through their ladder (our one and only men’s team this time, unfortunately we didn’t have two female partners for Tiffany to form a women’s team with). I won’t cover the details of each match and round, suffice it to say that the men took out Oceania Team A and BAA Team B before ultimately finishing fourth after losing a well fought third place playoff against an SAF team. A damn good show from one hell of a pick-up team! Congratulations to Antonio Gonzalez, William Ball, Ilya Solonitsyn, Ian King and Charlie Hudson on a well -played tournament.

Day four drew to a close, the winners got their medals at the venue and then we shared an amazing dinner with prawns, lobster, crab, mussels, fish, lamb and pork, curry and pasta dishes, and a wonderful dessert bar, followed up by the BAA after party.

Most importantly to me, we had the first international tournament co-hosted and co-managed by the World Sport Aikido Federation, laying a framework for a future of independently hosted international tournaments, where all the world’s players and associations can participate together again. Speaking of which, I hope to see you all in London in 2017!     

-Bob King, TAA, Chief Technical Director

Worldwide Sport Aikido Federation - Update

 

by Robert Dziubla, Chairman, Tomiki Aikido of the Americas (NPO)
10 October 2015
Background:
England, the United States, Russia and Georgia* have taken the lead, as founding members, to establish the Worldwide Sport Aikido Federation (WSAF) as the global governing body to sponsor sport aikido tournaments.    The only goal of the WSAF is to sponsor fair, open and unified sport aikido tournaments on a global and regional level, with the ultimate dream of having sport aikido be included as an Olympic sport.
As the WSAF foundational documents state:
“The Worldwide Sport Aikido Federation (WSAF) has three key goals:

  1. Unified international tournaments and world championships in which all competitors feel free to participate regardless of lineage or affiliation;
  2. Under a set of internationally agreed rules of competition for both randori and embu; and
  3. Before a panel of fair and independent judges (i.e., the judges and referees are from countries outside those of the players to the extent possible).” 

The founding members have shared the cost of hiring Swiss lawyers to establish the WSAF under Swiss law as a “voluntary organization,” (i.e. verein) that will be open to all.  Our plan is to have the final documents formally filed with the Swiss government no later than December 31, 2015.
Recent Developments
In January 2014, Shodokan Aikido Federation asked the WSAF to be a co-sponsor of the tournament that Shodokan was hosting in Brisbane, Australia, in August 2015 so that WSAF could participate and explain to the general Shodokan membership the goals of the WSAF.  WSAF agreed to do so with four conditions:
There would be no rule changes whatsoever, and the Official Rules used at the last unified world championship held in London in 2011 would be used.
The method for judging the competition would be the same as was used at the last unified world championship held in London in 2011, i.e. one head referee (shimpan) and two side judges (fukushin) for randori matches, and the flag system for embu competition.
Judges and referees would be fair and independent and, to the extent physically possible, from countries other than that of the players.*British Aikido Association, Tomiki Aikido of the Americas, Russian Aikido Association, Georgian  Competitive Aikido Association.
All disputes about judging would ultimately be decided by representatives from the three Tournament Organizers. 
Shodokan Aikido Federation agreed to these conditions, and I am very happy to say that they adhered to those conditions scrupulously.  My personal opinion is that the Brisbane Tournament was the fairest and least rancorous sport aikido tournament that I can ever remember, which now covers 40+ years of competition.
On August 28, 2015, Bob Dziubla (TAA), Mark Jenner (BAA) and Ilya Solonitsyn (RAA), were welcomed to explain to the SAF board of directors and senior members of SAF the goals and organizational structure of the WSAF.  Senior aikido practitioners from many other groups and countries including New Zealand, Australia, England, USA, and Switzerland attended that meeting.  The presentation and discussion were conducted in both English and Japanese.  After about two hours of presentation and discussion, Nariyama Tetsuro Sensei, on behalf of Shodokan, thanked WSAF for its hard work and efforts in making so much progress on establishing the WSAF and in developing the format for co-sponsoring the tournament.  He concluded by saying that they would review all of the documents after returning to Japan and then respond further.
On August 30, 2015, at the final dinner ceremony and party, Nariyama Sensei again publicly thanked WSAF for its participation and co-sponsorship in the tournament and then asked that WSAF explain to everyone gathered there (several hundred people) the goals and progress of the WSAF.  Bob Dziubla thanked Shodokan for the warm welcome; explained that the goal of the WSAF is to sponsor unified, fair and open tournaments as we move toward the dream of becoming an Olympic sport; asked everyone to read all of the WSAF foundational documents that can be found on the News & Events page of the TAA website at www.tomiki.org; and concluded with a welcome to everyone to join the WSAF.

Your Aikido

 

Lately I have been asked why I do randori and what, if anything, do I believe people should get out of randori.  I answer that question with a question of my own- have you ever put your aikido up against any other art, or been in actual combative situations? I am not saying go away from the comfort of the dojo and look for situations to practice your Aikido, that would not be Budo, Aikido or recommended in the crazy world we live in today.
In order to be confident that your aikido is as controlled and effective as you need it to be in the world we live in today, we need a way to test the boundaries of our understanding of Aikido. Being someone who has tested aikido against many other arts, you do not want to find the flaws of your understanding while in the midst of combat or conflict. When I was introduced to randori by Frank Farris many years ago, the rules were simple.
First, do no harm.  Secondly, do what you mean to do.  Thirdly protect your Uke and yourself simultaneously while constantly seeking knowledge.  With those simple rules, we grabbed a tanto and began working on our understanding of Aikido and randori. Those days we focused our randori practice on a few simple concepts: the real world application of the technique itself, the response of a real-world combative fighter to those situations, and the capability of these techniques to be accomplished at any speed while having the same desired outcome (cause harm and not cause harm.)  With that in mind we took the basic seventeen and the classic katas and applied them to randori in three areas of focus: the entry, the technique and the finish/escape.
I mention all of this because randori was introduced to me as a way to accelerate the understanding of aikido, not as a way to determine winners and losers. When I was a lower belt, I sought out every upper belt I could to practice randori with. I knew I would learn more about Aikido from them tossing me around (the ukemi) than practicing kata alone. So I do believe everyone should do randori as well as kata. Therefore, the question is not whether one should do randori, the question is should everyone compete in randori matches for points?  I have seen many randori matches and a lot of them end up looking very similar and focus on who is the strongest, who is the fastest, and who can get ahead on points.  When you focus on speed, strength, winning, and losing, sometimes bad things happen and people could get hurt. 
When the governing bodies interpret things as bad, they want to change the rules.  When we try to control the players with rules, the players find loopholes and change the way the game is played.  A few examples of this would be the players not treating the tanto as if it is a sharp, deadly weapon, the players not expecting the free hand to punch, players grappling body to body to avoid techniques or losing points, the occasional judo throw that slips in and other examples that are too numerous to count.  
Even with all the down sides of randori and it being played the way it is today, I believe it is still good practice and should be enjoyed by all. If we all do not have first hand experience and provide input, how will our Aikido evolve, and what will it evolve into? I was told the aikido of today should not look like the aikido of tomorrow.  Ask any randori player and they will tell you randori is very scary, exhausting  and much harder then it looks, but is aikido not harder then it looks?  
William Ball
Maryland Tomiki Aikido Center

Tanto Randori is a Terrible Game


Tanto randori is a terrible game, almost completely devoid of anything remotely resembling aikido.

I intend to keep playing.

(I’m writing from a hammock in Cairns while I wait for the hostel office to open back up. This Australia trip has been fun, albeit much too short. (And now I’m posting this from back home in the states…))

I would classify very little of what I saw on the mats this weekend aikido. This was no particular surprise, because true aikido is really hard to achieve. I was a little surprised though, that almost nobody even seemed to be aspiring to do aikido.

Clearly my definition of aikido differs from others.

But here’s the beautiful thing: competition can help me towards my goals even as it helps other participants towards their own very different goals.

Mindfulness, exercise, graceful movement, sporting glory, narcissistic blog fodder, whatever your goal, I believe aikido shiai can play a role. It is important though, to be clear on your intentions going in.

It is difficult to do aikido in shiai (competition). Shiai is stressful, and a little dangerous. Perhaps the biggest obstacle though, is the big fat goal of winning. Once you begin to work within the paradigm of winner and loser, it is very difficult to follow the approach which I believe is necessary for true aikido.

This is why most styles of aikido eschew competition. I believe it’s a mistake.

As I said, some people approach aikido as a sport, and for them, the value of competition is self-evident. But even for an aiki-snob like me, shiai can play a role.

Shiai is a challenging environment in which to practice aikido. That’s the point.

It is easier to stand up unencumbered than to deadlift hundreds of pounds, but ease of movement is not the reason people lift weights. It’s easier to veg out than study, but ease is not the reason people study.

Shiai makes aikido difficult in part because of the motivated, knowledgeable opponent, but more, I think, because of the wrestler in your own head who values the outcome over the process. Focus on the outcome and you might win the game, but probably not through aikido.

When I set out for Australia, I wanted to focus not on winning, but on doing two things as I played:

1. Keeping my intention and attention fully forward

2. Not existing

I can’t say I achieved them, but I sure as hell tried.

Between individuals and team competition I played 5 matches, I won only one of those matches, and that was through stabbing, not aikido.

It’s interesting to me that the times I came closest executing real aikido techniques were the times where my opponents were focusing more on the score of the game than I was.

In the third round our team came up against the very strong BAA A team who went on to win the finals. I was in the final spot, and by the time my match came around we were down 0-4. Winning my match would not change the outcome. What’s more, I had already played my opponent, Dee Ogunbiyi in individuals. With a slightly wonky right arm and a third-place match to prepare for, I saw zero reason to exert myself. In fact, the minute we lost match #3 I immediately changed my preparations.

Rather than work footwork, I switched over to the ukemi practice Joe recommended. My new goal was to skunk out. If I could take two falls quickly and cleanly the round would be over and we could all get on with the important things. But I wanted these to be nice falls. Big pretty fliers if possible.

This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. There were funny moments where I tried to take falls on motions that turned out to be set-ups, and ended up killing the technique. There was another moment where, having been maneuvered into showing my back, I waited for an ushiro which never came. But the strangest moment was one where, trying to follow Dee’s lead as closely as I could, I somehow ended up throwing him.

I’m going to have to go back and watch the video, because I have literally no idea what happened. The judges ended up scoring it as a wazaari, which might be the only throw I’ve actually scored in international competition. (note: I’ve now watched it, but I’ll discuss it in another post.)

Of course, I’ve had other throws, but somehow, though they are exactly the type of aikido I aspire to, they never seem to count.
There was a gyaku kaeshiwaza in London, and then two more throws in my tiebreaker team match for third place. (I’ll post the videos as soon as I can)

Those last two throws in the team match didn’t count because the judges deemed that they were not atemi-waza, and tanto can only apply atemi-waza as counters. I did look at a video of that match, and I agree with the judges assessment, the throws were not atemi-waza. So I lost the game. I accept that.

But, to my earlier point, why did I get those two throws at all? Because, in focusing on the outcome of the game, my opponent compromised his own structure and was absurdly over-aggressive. All I needed was a (weak) connection and a little looseness, and he was on the ground decisively.

Almost despite itself, competition provided a perfect laboratory to test the approach I have been trying to work on. In fact, it was precisely the questionable scoring and rules that set up the experiment.

So, to anyone who is on the fence about competition, my advice is this: go, but on your own terms.

By Charlie Hudson

Australia: Antipode, Animals, and Aikido

 

Traveling to my fifth international aikido tournament brought me literally to the opposite side of the world, a place I’d always wanted to visit but didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance.  As a biologist and scuba diver there was no way I would travel all the way to Australia and not see some of the natural wonders of the continent.  The tournament dates directly conflicted with my teaching schedule so I couldn’t travel after the tournament, but I took almost two weeks prior to the tournament to travel in a small portion of Queensland.  After a 24-hour delay, I reached Hervey Bay, Australia where I met up with Bob Dziubla for our flight in a very small plane over to Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay atoll in the Capricorn Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Even on the flight we could see sea turtles and humpback whales and I knew this was going to be an amazing experience.  Bob and I spent five days snorkeling, scuba diving, and relaxing on the tiny island and got to encounter manta rays, sharks, an octopus, countless sea turtles, and, my favorite, a wobbegong shark.  Despite being there for vacation, Bob and I staked out an area among the cabins to get in some aikido practice most days, using reef poles as jos and practicing the jo portions of the daisan, jo kata, taisabaki, and some light randori.  By the end we had quite an audience of other tourists who sat on their porches each day to watch our practice.
After leaving Lady Elliot I took a ferry to Fraser Island to do some solo hiking and find my favorite animals: reptiles.  After encountering monitor lizards, skinks, geckos, and a single (nonvenomous) snake, and four humpback whales, I headed to the Gold Coast to meet up with the U. S. team and prepare for the tournament.  Surfers Paradise is one strange town.  After discussing it with my teammates we decided is a cross between Las Vegas, Miami, San Juan, and Orlando—beachy, glitzy, and tacky, but also fun.  Where else could you watch a bachelorette party get western themed photos taken in the middle of the night, experience a 7D theater, and see an aboriginal man play a digeridoo in the street?
The seminars/tournament was great fun and an excellent learning experience for everyone.  I greatly enjoyed training with people from all over the world.  Although I personally did not fare well in the women’s individual, my kata with Will Ball was respectable and I tied Natuley Smalle (#2 woman in the world) in my kongodantaisen match.  Needless to say, I need lots more training.  A few of our men went several rounds in the katas and individuals and threw some beautiful techniques.  They definitely put on a good showing to represent our country.  Our men’s team impressed everyone and they were so close to earning the bronze—next time guys!
-Tiffany Doan

Feels Wrong Not to Swing

 

Many years ago, I watched a movie (you can guess) in which one of the key actors was formerly a minor league baseball player with the record for most home runs as well as most strike-outs. There is a scene where he comments on his records saying, "It just felt wrong not to swing." I have always associated with that statement. Call me simple, but it just speaks to purity of thought and conviction of commitment.

 

A few months ago, I was watching a judo documentary that discussed a particular country’s Olympic judo team, their training style, and compared it to the style of other countries’ Olympic teams. For reference, in judo, the judge will call an ippon when tori throws uke with considerable force and speed onto uke’s back (ippons are also called for pins lasting 25 seconds, tapouts, and incapacitation). An ippon is a winning score, game over. The documentary illustrated with clips that many competitors in the world tend to go for the win by racking up points thereby gaming the rules and playing the scorecard. The highlight that struck a chord with me was that one particular country’s team trained to go for the ippon because the ippon meant the ultimate win and a deadly blow in combat.

 

I had a lot of fun at this year’s World Aikido Championship in Gold Coast, Australia. I had not trained appropriately for the tournament, meaning I was physically fit for the tournament but had not been training for competitive sport aikido specifically for the due amount of time. With that said, I did mentally prepare and entered every match committed to do my best, not get stabbed (or not get stabbed too much), and to make legitimate attempts for techniques. I can sincerely state that I had the most fun at this tournament that I have ever had. The aikidoka that I competed against played really, really clean, and the judging was extremely crisp and coherent. Tournaments are messy, not perfect, but this one was judged and played well, which likely bodes well for the collaborative efforts of the WSAF, SAF, BAA, TAA, and Oceania orgs. Great work!

 

After the tournament I received some comments from folks that I respect, congratulating me on a solid effort and for my commitment to enter (irimi) on techniques rather than just sticking to taisabaki and going for wins off of tsukiari. One particular aikidoka commented that he felt future rule changes should be effected to encourage more aikido rather than stab and evasion. The first thing that came to mind was: “It just felt wrong not to swing.” I may have struck out a few times, but I knocked a few over the wall as well. For me, the essence of shiai is to learn the difference on the mat, so that you don’t strike out on the street. But we won’t learn that difference holding back on stabs or not entering on techniques because we are afraid of losing points. I have been emboldened by this tournament to continue pursuing randori and tournaments as way to improve my own view of self-defense in aikido, and I encourage you to step on the mat, play some randori, and start experimenting and learning to improve your aikido, your self defense, and your chances of protecting yourself on the street.

 

-Antonio Gonzalez

Why did I ever come back?

Just as the legendary Issun Bôshi set out to sea in his soup bowl boat to test himself in the vast world full of giants, this past August the TAA sent a rag-tag team of aikidoka from around the country to test their skills on the international competitive stage that is the bi-annual World Championships.  And like Issun Bôshi, what we lacked in terms of support and preparation, we more than made up for in terms of sheer grit and an intuitive feel for aikido that comes with training under a variety of conditions.  Both these qualities were on display when we congregated as a team on a patch of grass wedged between a busy urban thoroughfare and one of the canals of Surfer’s Paradise. That very first team practice, just three days before the competition, was really our first opportunity to work out who would be in which competitions, as well as what particular kata would be demonstrated for the jiyu waza. Despite the less-than-ideal practice space and the general disorganization of the team at that point, everyone happily took falls on that small patch of grass, shared wisdom and knowledge with each other, and really came together as a team at that moment.
While injuries and last-minute changes continued challenge us, we persevered as the competition culminated in the men’s randori semi-finals on Sunday.  The TAA team, after decidedly defeating a Shôdôkan Oceania team and the British Aikido Association Team B, advanced to the third-place match against a SAF team.  Although we ended up losing this otherwise very close match, we walked away knowing that with a bit of preliminary preparation and training, we can compete with the best teams from around the world.  It is in this spirit that we are excited to stimulate development within TAA over the next two years so we will be even more prepared for the next world championships. Although we failed to bring home hardware from this international competition, we bring back incredible memories and determination to excel even further in future competitions.  Let’s start working towards putting a team together for London 2017!

From left to right: Bob King, Wade Current, Ilya Solonitsyn, Charlie Hudson, Ian King (kneeling), William Ball, Antonio Gonzalez, Rob Brandon, Michael Wood, Tiffany Doan. (Not shown Robert Dziubla Shihan)

 
By Michael Wood (Chapman Shodokan/Tomiki Aikido Club)
 

Jedi Aikido


Due to the hype surrounding the new Star Wars movie, I can’t help but draw comparisons between it and the art I am passionately studying. Allow me to explain.
In the Star Wars universe, there exists a mysterious cosmic power called The Force.  The good guys (Jedi) use the light side, while the bad guys (Sith) use the dark side, in order to influence and control the world as they see fit. The connection between this fantastic world and Aikido is simple; in order to achieve mastery, let alone be a competent fighter, one has to balance their aggression with focus and adaptability.
In the movie Return of the Jedi, the main character (Luke) refuses to fight his father, only defending while his father hurls powerful strikes at him with a sword capable of rending flesh in a blaze of light.  It is only when his passion overtakes him, when his family is threatened, that he unleashes a series of overwhelming strikes and ultimately defeats his foe.
It’s a confusing moment for the film series, because up to this point, we have been told that giving into your anger and aggression leads down a dark path.  Essentially, getting angry makes you the bad guy, regardless of the context.
Oddly enough, most people condone Luke’s actions, because, while he did submit to the dark side for the briefest of moments, he ultimately doesn’t kill his father, despite being goaded to do so by the sinister Sith Emperor. Aikido and real life, in many cases, rarely afford the luxury of submitting to the dark side, in order to gain strength and power.
To give into your hate, to let frustration overwhelm you, and to lash out violently, rarely results in a positive outcome, but in Aikido in particular, you risk hurting yourself more than you do hurting your opponent. There is strength in focus, flexibility, and adaptability.  All of which tends to be lost in the confusion when Aikidoka give in to rage.  What’s more, we are trained to take advantage of situations like this; to make the most of the strongest attack our opponents can give us.
Throw a haymaker and you risk severe injury. Charge in with a tackle and find yourself with a broken bone, in any number of areas. Beyond the strength that rage affords, many question the physicality of Aikido; asking how strong or athletic they have to be, or how weak they can be, but still be an effective practioner.
Athleticism clearly plays a role in the tournaments, as seen by who the usual victors are.  However, I don’t think it’s for the same reason as you would usually think. This is only my theory, but I feel the more physically fit Aikidoka aren’t winning because of how toned or strong they are, but rather how disciplined and knowledgeable they are of their own bodies.  When you spend that much time shaping yourself, you learn how to move, when to move, and what to move at just the right time.
Instead of building or shaping muscles, many are building and shaping muscle memory, reacting without thought, finding their hands and feet are just where they need to be.
Being a heavyset man myself, I can only contemplate what it must be like to have physical strength, speed, and agility.  I can only imagine it’s borderline intoxicating to have the self-assurance that only a truly athletic body can provide All that power is just as easily turned against you if unleashed in the wrong way.  A 300 pound fighter charging at a 130 opponent is a horrifying sight, but ultimately amusing when you see said giant fly across the room. Physical strength can afford you confidence, and it’s well deserved; but I wonder if true strength is in patience, timing, and self-control.
There is no “beast mode” in Aikido, and there shouldn’t ever be. In summation, as we gather every year to teach and learn from each other, we need to learn what makes a true winner, or better yet, what are we fighting for? It’s not about changing the art.  It’s not about overpowering and overwhelming your opponent. It’s about being focused, balanced, and at ease.  Learning yours flaws and improving upon them.  It’s about starting a physical dialogue with your opponents and striking up an engaging conversation that people can’t help but eavesdrop on.
 
Rob Brandon
Maryland Tomiki Aikido Center
1st Dan

(Reprinted by permission of Stan Pranin of Aikido Journal)
 
Are you an unwitting participant in the demise of Aikido? by Stanley Pranin
Sep 26, 2015

 

“Morihei Ueshiba has proven useful as an authorative figure to boost the status of various organizations, but his superlative techniques and Shinto-laced manner of speech are considered antiquated and irrelevant, and have been summarily discarded by aikido’s governing bodies.”
It is difficult for me to write this blog. You will understand why momentarily.
In the past several years I have attended seminars and had lengthy conversations in three continents. One of the urgent topics of conversation is the slow death of aikido as a viable martial art in a world full of eye-catching alternatives. All I talked with were in agreement that aikido’s numbers are steadily falling and it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to maintain a dojo faced with such overwhelming competition. The golden years of aikido seem long past.
Young people prefer the sensationalized martial arts they see depicted on the movie screen in gory displays of violence. They want something they can learn quickly and turn themselves into superb fighting machines in record time. They have no moral compass to guide them in the meting out of techniques designed to kill and maim. For them, if the other guy starts a fight, then he is fair game to be taken down a notch.. If he gets hurts in the scuffle, then was happens to him is well-deserved. Aggression inspired by arrogance lead to destruction and humiliation, a lesson learned by Japan in the aftermath of World War II.
Action scenes by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and China, not to mention the uber violence portrayed in video games, simply reinforce this mentality.
Aikido as conceived by Founder Morihei Ueshiba has a unique alternative to offer the world: a vast curriculum of highly effective techniques and a moral philosophy guiding their use. But this genius of a man has been swept aside by the organizations that now operate aikido.
What little mention there is of him is nothing less than schizophrenic in nature. Morihei Ueshiba has proven useful as an authorative figure to boost the status of various organizations, but his superlative techniques and Shinto-laced manner of speech are considered antiquated and irrelevant, and have been summarily discarded by aikido’s governing bodies.
So how is it that today’s aikido leaders expect to compete in a world filled with flashy martial arts focused on competition, the more violent the better? If public exhibitions are any indication, the All-Japan Aikido Demonstrations exemplify aikido’s answer.
Their solution is to put on display highly choreographed demonstrations in which everything goes oh so smoothly with participants moving about effortlessly downing attackers. To add more spice to these performances, most throws involve spectacular high falls that only a few well-trained athletes with acrobatic skills can pull off.
Veteran practitioners of other martial arts with experience in violent fighting competitions express derision when viewing these hollow performances.
Are we showing Morihei’s aikido or emulating the Cirque de Soleil?
Well, we’re definitely not modeling ourselves on Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido and as circus performers we are third-rate.
So what is the answer? Go back to the source! Aikido Journal has meticulously collected and organized most of the extant film footage of Aikido’s Founder. You will find it here. He is a model and inspiration for what you can achieve in aikido!

We have further put together the most important resource of aikido technical material in existence featuring one of Morihei Ueshiba’s most talented disciples, Morihiro Saito. It is the gold standard for those desiring to polish their technique. Morihiro Saito was a devoted student of Morihei Ueshiba and a martial arts genius. His remarkable systemization of the Founder’s curriculum is vast in scope, and precise and clear in its presentation. Saito Sensei’s “Complete Guide to Aikido” is here. 
Now what can you do as an individual practitioner? While training on the mat, don’t adopt a passive attitude. Become proactive and strive to learn to blend with your partner. Next, when you are acting as nage, make the first moment of contact with your uke decisive. Your first action should take uke’s balance. When you have succeeded in unbalancing the attacker, your aikido will become highly effective.

As uke, don’t be a participant in a choreographed faked sequence where “I’ll let you throw me if you let me throw you.” While being respectful and safe in your practice, don’t tank for nage. Nage has a job to do to take control of the situation and produce a clean, effective throw. You as uke have the job of presenting a committed, sincere attack. This means you don’t take advantage of your foreknowledge of the technique being practiced to thwart nage’s every move. Remember nage can do the very same thing to you and you’ll both look stupid practicing in such a manner. You will never progress by training in this manner.

Follow the Founder’s example and put your body and soul into every movement and always maintain a beginner’s mind. You will never stop learning and improving with the right attitude.
Aikido has amazing benefits to offer. Basing ourselves on Morihei Ueshiba’s example, we can rescue aikido from its slow descent into oblivion. But only through long, consistent dedication, and offering the best we have to give.
(A wealth of articles can be found in the Aikido Journal, the TAA urges you to subscribe at www.aikidojournal.com, for $29.75 per year you have access to an incredible library, as well as daily updates via e-mail)

New TAA Website Launched!

 

We want to inform you that the TAA has launched a new website still at tomiki.org.

The new site benefits and improvements include:

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  • updated layout and content with enriched media
  • relaunched storefront with the ability to purchase TAA memberships, TAA branded merchandise through a third party site called CafePress, videos, and kyu and dan rank belts for yourself or your students
  • an updated payments processor (Stripe) which will take any form of credit or debit card without requiring the creation of an online account
  • TAA members’ only video content including footage from seminars and tournaments dating back 25 years

If you paid for a TAA membership this year, please note that you will not have to purchase a new membership. You will receive an email with instructions on how to activate your membership on the new site soon. We have canceled all PayPal subscriptions and ask that you confirm cancellation of previous payments to the TAA by checking your PayPal accounts.
The site allows users to create accounts, which will enable you to view purchased videos and other purchase history but this is distinct from supporting the TAA with a membership purchase. We encourage you to take advantage of these additional membership benefits and thank you for your continued support of the TAA through your recurring membership subscriptions.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any question, comments, or suggestions at info@tomiki.org.
Events
 

The UNC club, headed by Erik Townsend, will be hosting the 2016 U.S. Nationals on campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The event will be held at the Rams Head Recreation Center from July 28th to July 31st. Please stay posted for early bird discounts by checking the store section of the new website.

Membership Dues
 

Please remember to pay your $30 annual dues online at the new TAA site store. Your membership dues help support your local dojo with insurance coverage as well as give you access to up and coming membership benefits like discounts to events and access to the TAA digital video archive.

TAA Social Media
 

TAA is happy to announce an updated social media campaign.  You can look forward to more updates and posts from TAA’s social media channels via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.   Friends can share their passion with the latest pictures and accomplishments.  The TAA social media will serve as a bulletin board to announce upcoming events throughout the nation.  Everyone is encouraged to post comments and share with the community the latest promotions.  Stay tuned for further announcements on TAA Social Media.  If you haven’t done so already, please Like Us on Facebook.  Happy posting!