By Sanders Anderson, Multnomah Aikikai
Frank Apodaca Sensei taught a weekend seminar at Multnomah Aikikai in Portland, Ore., October 23-25, 2015.
It’s been a week since the Apodoca Sensei seminar was held here at Multnomah Aikikai, and I am still overwhelmed with this event. I don’t know if it was the massive numbers of aikidoka that showed up, the instructors from across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, or the laser-sharp focus of Sensei Apodoca’s classes.
I met and trained with old friends, made new ones, and got to train with some of our newest members of Multnomah Aikikai. I was proud of the hospitality and spirit I feel is representative of our school. And I think it was noticed by visitors who came from across town and from across the region.
This event was a particularly poignant marker for two reasons. Sensei Apodoca has been training for 30 years now, and it’s been 15 years since he was chief instructor (his first teaching residency) at Multnomah Aikikai. Students and instructors were excited to welcome him back.
A huge amount of information was presented over the course of the three days. It’s amazing how logically Sensei Apodoca can break down techniques in Aikido down into the most basic components. If we couldn’t understand hips and how to successfully apply them with our techniques at the end of seminar, maybe we weren’t paying attention.
Apodoca Sensei said his mission was to challenge our assumptions and to get us to think about the fundamentals in a different way. Brute strength and muscle are no substitute for proper mechanics and martial efficiency. And in Aikido that means utilizing the hips.
He also talked about the concept of “no attachment.” Without a preconceived idea of how an encounter will or should go, you can be free in the moment, and open to possibilities. I believe this idea in particular serves us well both on and off the mat.
The weapons classes focused on getting off the line and the need to be light and swift on your feet while utilizing your hips to drive the bokken or jo. I sometimes get lost concentrating on my upper body (OK, well most of the time) while completely forgetting to control my lower body, specifically the hips and legs. Sensei’s weapons classes helped me, especially on the third day of the seminar as we progressed to more dynamic body art exercises.
Apodaca Sensei showed us a lot of demonstrations of how you can work through your tension by slowing down and being mindful of how we are engaging our bodies. For instance, his demonstration of ushiro ryotedori ikkyo, where he highlighted the issues of over-reaching for elbow control vs. using the hips to effortlessly engage the desired point of contact.
The entire weekend seminar was full of nonstop action, fun and practical tips on how we can enhance our techniques and adjust our approach to practice so as to harvest the most benefits. Excellent training at this seminar event! The work was simple enough that all could participate, but also deep enough to offer training insights and remedies to bad habits.
In addition, our very own Jon Paul Oliva tested over a two-day period in both body arts and weapons and passed his fukushidoin certification test! I think I see a party in the future!
Thanks to Senseis Fleshler and Van Amburgh for inviting Apodaca Sensei and thanks to all the teachers and students who came from all over the Pacific Northwest to support this event.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Sam Brimhall of Multnomah Aikikai for the great video footage!
Group photo from Apodaca Sensei seminar at Multnomah Aikikai, October 2015.