Boyet em Brasil

Birankai North America Summer Camp 2018 guest instructor Didier Boyet Shihan gave a great seminar this past week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Visit the Facebook page of Leonardo Marques Câmara Sodré to see hundreds of photos of the event – you may even catch a glimpse of Luis Gonçalves, who visited Birankai Summer Camp in San Diego a few years ago while he was living in Japan. (The photo up top is one of many high-quality images.)

Looking forward to seeing Boyet Sensei soon in Tacoma and greetings to our friends in Brazil!

Book Profiles a Generation

Instructors at the 1994 USAF Summer Camp, celebrating the 30th anniversary of New York Aikikai.

By Liese Klein, New Haven Aikikai

As we approach the publication date of “The Life-Giving Sword: Kazuo Chiba’s Life in Aikido,” I’d like highlight one important facet of the book – it’s not just about Chiba Sensei. At close to 400 pages, this book attempts to profile an entire generation of Aikido pioneers. These are the young Japanese men who left Hombu Dojo in the 1960s under the direction of Kisshomaru Ueshiba to heed O-Sensei’s call to build “bridges across the ocean” and bring Aikido to the West.

Using Chiba Sensei’s writings, historic materials and in-person interviews where possible, I’ve attempted to profile many of these men and tell their stories of struggle and triumph in Europe, the U.K. and the Americas.

The book also explores the foundational role of several of Chiba Sensei’s most important sempai: Koichi Tohei, Morihiro Saito and Mutsuro Nakazono, along with influential teachers like Tadashi Abe, Kenshiro Abbe, Sadateru Arikawa, Kisaburo Osawa, Seigo Yamaguchi and Hiroshi Tada. These men, along with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, shaped the Aikido and careers of Chiba Sensei’s generation and continue to influence many across the Aikido world.

Chiba Sensei, Kanai Sensei, Yamada Sensei and Tamura Sensei, 1980s.

Life as a direct student of O-Sensei at both Hombu Dojo and Iwama is also explored in-depth in a section on the early careers of the post-war generation. Throughout the narrative, several of Chiba Sensei’s close colleagues, especially Yoshimitsu Yamada, Mitsunari Kanai and Nobuyoshi Tamura, are discussed in detail as they developed their own dojos, organizations and teaching styles. As far as I know, this is the first full-length treatment of this period of Aikido history.

Sign up now to reserve a first-edition copy of “The Life-Giving Sword: Kazuo Chiba’s Life in Aikido.” You will be notified as soon as copies are ready for sale and directed to an online purchasing page.

(Active Birankai North America members will be notified automatically, but if you want more than one copy, please submit the form below.)

Camp Preview: Essay on Boyet Sensei

The Practice is the Purpose

By Rob Darmour, Multnomah Aikikai

The first time I met Boyet Sensei he was wearing a black, rabbit felt hat with a wide brim and no decoration other than a simple black band chasing around the crown.  A bold yet natural choice for the cold weather of Vancouver BC in February 2017.

Attending his seminar at Mountain Coast Aikikai caused my practice to shift. Until then, I was practicing the techniques being taught.  A beginner working at the surface.

My eyes absorbed, my mind decoded and my body moved.

What I found in Boyet Sensei’s teaching was essential, direct and fluid. A bold simplicity that resonated with my creative values.

“You do not have time” he said while we worked through a shomen bokken technique.  He emphasized how important one, clear movement was in meeting the attack of an opponent’s weapon.

“You will be dead,” he finished, underscoring that speed was a matter of timing and reduction to essential movement.  It was not a matter of more, but rather less.

His lesson was simple; nine words, one clear meaning.  It catalyzed my Aikido practice with new perspective because he taught through the language of my creative values. I left the dojo in Vancouver excited to put the weekend’s learnings to daily practice.

It had triggered the shift, but the avalanche was still to come.

A year later, March 2018, Portland was emerging from winter’s slumbering rhythm. A bouquet of purple tulips rested with a wild, natural gesture on the kamiza at Multnomah Aikikai.  Boyet Sensei was in town to teach a seminar at my home dojo.

I had just come off a rather taxing period in my career that ended abruptly. I was feeling listless and disinterested creatively.  A problem for a designer and perfect timing for the kind of provocation a mentor can inspire.

I spent the whole weekend on the tatami, eager to absorb all the Aikido I could.  To my surprise, what I learned illuminated a path beyond the dojo and helped to reignite my dimming passion for design.

Once again, Boyet Sensei was direct in his practice.  No fluffy stuff, no extra movement; all practicality, applied simply.

A year before I was encountering all of it for the first time; I was just happy to get a signal.  This time, I was tuning into the finer lessons that come with familiarity.

“Copy from someone better than you until you have made it your own, then find another person.” He lectured between techniques.

I thought about all the senior students and instructors I had learned from.  Gweyn’s ukemi, Bill’s kokyu-ho, Thoms Sensei’s tenchinage. But had I committed myself to it?  Had I owned my practice? Had I possessed my creative identity?

“You do not have time” he said about the little extra movements he was trying to prune out of his students. Once again, those five words echoed the clear message that changed my mindset a year prior.

The way that Boyet Sensei demonstrated techniques struck like a bolt of lightning.  Just enter, turn, and there it is; Ikkyo. The clarity of movement leaves nothing mysterious, and the reduction reveals beauty.

He spoke in familiar language.

“You must be beautiful, and to be beautiful, it must be simple.” Boyet Sensei explained during the Sunday morning Iaido class.  “it may take fifteen, twenty years, but if you train, you will find it.”

In the creative arts, it is no different.  Form follows function. Less is more. But getting there is a messy exercise with a lot of wasted movement.  Out of the process emerges the value.

Boyet Sensei reminded me that the practice is the purpose.  Beauty will come.

This is a lesson every creative from Dietre Rams to Paul Motian and the Eames have tried to pass on.  Owning one’s way of being, their “do” is born in practice. Beauty is a result, not a destination.

Boyet Sensei had connected my Aikido practice with my creative values.  His teaching changed the way I do both. It guided me below the surface and gave me a deeper perspective of my Aikido journey.  It made my practice personal and I felt recommitted.

I try to remind myself to find the simple path and follow it boldly.  In ikkyo or in life.

Rob Darmour is a 5th kyu member of Multnomah Aikikai. This essay first appeared in the Multnomah Aikikai blog; click the link to see the original and view a brief montage of Boyet Sensei practicing Iaido by Sam Brimhall.

More newly posted clips of Boyet Sensei can be found at the Birankai Aikido Video Channel on Youtube:

Calling All Teachers

Birankai Aikido Instructors Intensive in California, 2012. This year’s intensive is in Upstate New York May 18-20; the theme is “Kihon,” or the building blocks of our training.

How do I attract new members? What is the best platform to fundraise for new mats? How can I get more from my dues-payment system? What is a good strategy for teaching Sansho?  We have a lot of experience in our organization – and we have a lot of know-how to share.

“Grow Your Dojo” is the focus of our new Birankai Aikido Teachers news blast, a monthly rundown of tips and real-world experience from instructors across the continent (and beyond, we hope). We’ve also started a closed Facebook group to encourage discussion and sharing of videos, news items and other media with the goal of supporting and encouraging each other in trying to transmit Chiba Sensei’s Aikido.

All Birankai Aikido teachers in North America, Europe and beyond are welcome to take part and join the discussion: Email liese.klein@gmail.com if Continue reading “Calling All Teachers”

Seminar Report: Breath Power

Event: Darrell Bluhm Shihan of Siskyou Aikikai at Green River Aikido, May 5-6, 2018. With additional instruction from Cindy Eggers Shidoin.

Instructor’s Statement: “Coming here I’ve been really interested in thinking about ukemi and kokyu ryoku (breath power from the center) as sort of the yin and yang of our practice, the inhalation-exhalation. For me ukemi is the art of receiving and neutralizing power with our whole body – as Chiba Sensei would say without resisting, without escaping, without flying away, or without collapsing. Ukemi is a vital aspect, it’s a preparation for the unexpected, and the way that we take ukemi in Birankai is really lively.

“Ukemi isn’t just the falling down, it really is a whole relation, the ability to absorb and neutralize power. Thinking about power, I think that how we generate power is misunderstood because we tend to think about it in terms of muscular force. The first thing we have to do is to align our skeleton because the skeleton is the primary organ for support of the body. When we align our skeleton with gravity, we’re able to capture the ground reaction forces that our relationship with gravity gives us. It allows us to generate force through the body, so skeletal alignment is critical. Really important to that is spinal extension, something that was so apparent in Sensei’s Aikido, his throwing as well as how he taught and how he demonstrated ukemi.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about something Chiba Sensei said in a letter to Lizzy Lynn: ‘To practice Aikido is to study the body; to study the body is to study the Continue reading “Seminar Report: Breath Power”

Women’s Aikido Camp: “An Experience of Intensity, Joy, and Sisterhood”

By Rosa Mitchell, North County Aikikai

Why did I go to Women’s Aikido Camp? To be honest, I went mostly for the location. I looked at the pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center, and thought a few days in Santa Fe, New Mexico would be a well-deserved “escapadita” (little escape), as we say in my family. Also, as a newbie, the idea of going to Summer Camp had just been too intimidating and I thought that Women’s Camp, with its smaller size, could serve as an introduction of sorts: a way to jump in, but maybe not too deeply.

We arrived at the retreat center with only a few minutes to spare before the first class. I scrambled to get my gi on and rushed back to the gym. As all the women began to line up, we were instructed by Varjan Sensei to do so in order of rank. This required us to talk to one another to find our place. There was no need for this shy girl to talk to anyone. As a 5th kyu, I just needed to go to the back at the end of the line, easy! When we all settled down, I looked down the rows at all the women in hakama, and the enormity of the situation settled on me and brought me to tears. The sound of all the female voices as we said our onegai shimasu in unison filled the gym and filled me with an unexpected joy.

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photo by Karen Hamilton

In trying to describe why it was so different to train with only women, it is easy to jump to stereotypes, all of which are completely inadequate to describe what I saw and experienced. All these weeks later and I still haven’t been able to put my finger on what the difference was exactly, but I can say that I loved every minute. I can tell you that the encounters on the mat were intense and sincere, but also filled with love and so much joy.

Yes, the classes were amazing, but I haven’t been to a seminar yet where that wasn’t true. So, what was different? Maybe it was just the opportunity to see what I can become. It may have been just being in a room full of bad ass women and feeling that if I work hard, I can be like them. Maybe it was being told by a very open and powerful woman, that this little shy girl can become open and powerful. It probably had something to do with Graham Sensei telling the kyu ranks that it was time to inhabit the front row and know that we deserve to be there. It may also have been that while a mat full of men can sometimes feel intimidating, a mat full of women felt welcoming and empowering. I’m still not sure what it was exactly, but for me it was magical. I can tell you I found something in my Aikido practice that I didn’t know was missing, and I can tell you that I will be at the next Women’s Aikido Camp.

In the world of surfing, we seem to get a particular joy out of telling people that they missed it. We don’t share our secret spots lest they get too crowded. But this I will shout from the rooftops. Ladies, if you missed it, or if you hesitated for any reason; the next one is not to be missed! Go for the location, go for the local spas, go to get away for a few days, whatever your reason is, just go!

To my male training partners, I can’t say I missed you, but I will say that I thought of you often. I kept thinking that I would like you to experience this too. I know what you are thinking: “Summer Camp… not Women’s Camp.” But what I wish is that you could experience “Women’s Aikido Camp” so you could experience the intensity, the joy, and the sisterhood with me. Guys, while I can’t arrange an invitation for you, I can promise you that I will do my best to train with the intensity and the loving spirit that I felt in Santa Fe.

 

Camp Highlights

Most of us are back home – the bruises are fading and the gis have been washed. Time to reflect on Birankai Aikido 2016 Summer Camp, which ended with a lively session of tai no henko led by Dave Stier Shihan of Green River Aikido on Tuesday morning.

Stier Sensei was the topic of some truly moving testimonies at the farewell party the night before, when his students told of his dedication to helping those of all abilities and body types master Aikido.

“I just wanted to be a student,” Stier Sensei said, describing the trajectory of his training after the sudden death of his teacher, Paul Sylvain Shihan. Stier Sensei went on to lead an impressive closing class to 2016 Birankai Summer Camp.

Another longtime student, Frank Apodaca Sensei of Deep River Aikikai in North Carolina, was recognized earlier during camp: Birankai has recommended that he be promoted to shihan rank.

Apodaca Sensei was a long-suffering kenshusei when I arrived in San Diego, a veteran of the legendary “Pressure Cooker” and “Suffering Bastards” eras.  His ukemi was death-defying to this newbie, especially when he would get up seemingly in one piece after Chiba Sensei demonstrated ushiro ryotedori sutemi waza, also known as “the roadkill technique.” (Chiba Sensei would rear back and flatten him like a bug.)

By the time I got there in the mid-1990s, Apodaca Sensei was a stern taskmaster in morning class and an even more stern leader of sesshin and other events at San Diego Aikikai, a link to a harsher past. Time spent as dojo-cho in Portland, Oregon, and Lansing, Michigan, seemed to mellow him out, and by the time Apodaca Sensei established Deep River Aikikai he was a supportive and open-hearted teacher.

For me, the best thing about 2016 Birankai Summer Camp was gaining new appreciation for these two men, working often without recognition in recent years to transmit Chiba Sensei’s (and Sylvain Sensei’s) Aikido.

With teachers like these in our ranks, Birankai is in safe hands.

Liese Klein

(More new video of 2016 Birankai Aikido Summer Camp at the BiranOnline channel on YouTube.)

East Coast Regional rocks

100_0602Birankai members gathered at Bucks County Aikido this weekend for a regional seminar that brought together teachers and students from across the Northeast and as far away as Michigan, Illinois, Florida and Washington. More than 76 people practiced and took part in testing and a truly epic potluck party.

Darrell Bluhm Shihan of Siskiyou Aikikai explored the concept of positive movement by nage in techniques to take the center.

George Lyons Shihan of Bucks County Aikido urged us to “trust the principles” of Aikido and put ourselves at risk as nage to draw a committed attack.

Visit BiranOnline on YouTube to see more videos by Bluhm Sensei, George Lyons Sensei, Patti Lyons Sensei and Robert Savoca Sensei of Brooklyn Aikikai.

Often invoked were memories of Mark Murashige Sensei and Jack Arnold Sensei, treasured Birankai teachers who both passed away in recent weeks. Their legacy of selfless teaching and joy in practice was alive on the mat in Bucks County this weekend.

New video from Eastshore Aikikai

Be sure to check out these new video clips from the Eastshore Aikikai Friendship Seminar, held on Dec. 2, 2012, in Richmond, Calif. This Birankai Aikido seminar featured Elizabeth Lynn Shihan of Eastshore Aikikai and J.D. Sandoval Sensei of Hayward Aikido.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boJSSu4WPtI&feature=youtu.be
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOfJh1c6etM&feature=youtu.be

Let’s ‘like’ Birankai dojos

Facebook is more than cute cat photos and status updates — you can help support your local Birankai dojo as well. Facebook activity helps promote small businesses like Aikido dojos and helps our worldwide community stay in touch.

If you have a dojo and haven’t taken the plunge yet, here are Facebook’s guidelines on to get your page started.

If you’re already on Facebook, take the time to “like” our dojos if you haven’t already (just click on the ‘like button). Also don’t be shy about leaving notes of support or thanks after seminars and other events — some of us don’t update our pages as much as we should!

Here are some Facebook pages to get you started:

Birankai International

San Diego Aikikai

Aikido Institute of San Francisco

Alameda Aikikai

Siskiyou Aikikai

Brooklyn Aikikai

Bucks County Aikido

New Tampa Aikido

Huron Valley Aikikai

See you on Facebook!