Aikido training (Cambridge)

Hi everyone,
I hope you are well and coping with life and the changes and adjustments that we are all having to make? I have seen some of you during our Zoom Aikido sessions so I know how you are doing. Others I have not seen or heard from in a long time. Hopefully it is because you are choosing not to be in touch, rather than for more sinister reasons.
Anyhow I want to say that mainly through Laurence’s superb efforts with some support from me, there are plenty of Aikido / stretching class options that are happening now as part of the Cambridge Aikido Club during the Covid crisis. These include Zoom sessions online and more recently face to face (2m distance) weapons training too. In order for the club to survive and even thrive, we need more than a couple of willing students and teachers to keep it going. We need to see students supporting the club. At the moment there is no payment because there is nothing rented, so classes are free (apart from your time of course!) and thanks to the generosity of the teachers. So it would be great to see you and to have some support for the club. It may be that training indoors on a mat is not going to happen for several months yet. So in order to preserve your Aikido, continue on the Aikido path, and even improve, you need to practise, otherwise you will forget all that you have learnt which would be very sad.
I am listing the classes that are available at the moment below. Time and places may change slightly, so if in doubt, please join the club WhatsApp group for up to date information or text me or Laurence directly for last minute information, for example, outdoor classes won’t happen if it is raining. So please take advantage now while the sun is shining and while you have time. Without your support the club may not be here when you eventually think about coming back to training!
Hope to see you soon.
All the best,

  • Sundays: Weapons class via Zoom. 0900-0930. Meeting link: upon request
  • Tuesdays: Weapons at Histon FC. 1920-2000. Outdoors with social distancing.
  • Weds: Aikido stretching class via Zoom. 1815-1900. Meeting link: upon request
  • Thursdays: Weapons on The Backs (near Queens college). 1920-2000. Outdoors with social distancing.

Should this be in our aikido too?

Respect your partner’s ki (don’t interfere with their chosen direction),
don’t become the attacker,
cause no harm,
‘the enemy is within ourselves’, not in the attacker.
None of the above are signs of weakness but properly employed, enable great power to be manifested, a power used not to destroy an enemy but to save a misguided soul from harm.
If you think this is nuts then check out O-Sensei, Tohei, and modern teachers like Paul Linden. None of them hurt their partners, it looks like some teachers today,might.
If we want to have harmony of spirit and be one with the universal we may have to consider this during daily life because on the mat we dispense with engaging verbally with our partner (attacker for want of better word). Instead of ‘sorry pal if I have upset you, how can I put it right with you?’ we immediately escalate to a staged violent confrontation and use our aikido to teach them a lesson!
We all end up with our own opinion and then seek evidence that supports it, but only by questioning and leaving our comfort zone will we progress towards the peaceful art of aikdo – an art to reconcile the world.
Richard Small

The importance of kiai [spirited shout]

We recently discussed the use of kiai in a class, mainly because I observe that few Aikidoka choose to use kiai when training tai jutsu and only occasionally use it with bukiwaza. I think beginners are embarrassed and older students can find it tiring perhaps. But what does kiai add to our training? Is it a natural expression of power or energy or is it simply a habit one picks up? I would like to know what people think about using kiai and whether it benefits their Aikido training? One of the Cambridge students (Eddy Zabcik) showed me a synopsis (below) about kiai from O’Sensei; you might find this interesting.
*From: The Secret Teachings of Aikido by Morihei Ueshiba*
    In the martial arts there are various shouts. For example, “/ei/”, “/yaa/”, “/too/”, “/ha/” and so on. There are many more possible shouts than these 4 sounds: they are all derived from /kototama/ theory. These /kototama/ sounds are based on deep breathing and the rhythm between the voice and the mind. The sound “flies out” when a technique is executed: its quality expresses the extent of one’s mind/body/unity. When voice, body, and mind are unified, excellent techniques result. /Aiki/ is to train to develop the splendid power that is generated by the unity of spirit and body. This unity of voice, body and mind is the essence of traditional martial arts training, practiced over and over – such concentrated spirit is the pillar of /budo/. Follow the example of all the great masters, martial artists such as Yagyu Jubei [1607-1650, Yagyu Ryu swordsman] and Tsukahara Bokuden [1489-1571, founder of Kashima Shinto Ryu]; realise that /budo/ energy is a blessing of the gods that we need to treat and harness with reverence.
    Take the words of these great exemplars to heart and make their teachings part of your being by practicing them every day. Harmonise your breath with the breath of heaven and earth. On occasion, we cut with “/ei/”, receive with “/ya/”, and separate with “/too/”. When you and your partner are in tune, the /too/ separation /kiai/ [spirited shout] works well, but if one of the partners has an opening, the /ei/ and /ya/ /kiai/ will not be effective. In the old days, it was said that when the /ei/ and /ya/ were harmonized, the /too/ separation /kiai/ would work. In short, the /kiai/ were used to facilitate training without openings or slack. If such training was done in earnest, it would be possible to sense an impending attack and neutralize it immediately with an appropriate technique. This sense is the key to effective throws and pins. Train diligently in the techniques and improve your level, and forge your spirit.