Focusing on the syllabus too much can actually slow down the learning process

This article is a continuation from the piece ‘Adaptation‘ which I wrote following our Spring Seminar


This month we held our week long Summer School with Sensei Simone Chierchini at various locations in the south east.
If there was a theme for the week , it would have to be Takemusu. First I try to explain what that means. ‘Take’ is usually understood to mean the same as bu in bujutsu or budo. ‘Musu’ is to give birth too. So Takemusu Aikido is too spontaneously adapt to the changing circumstances of life through limitless creativity and expression.

One of the things I appreciate very much about how Simone teaches is that he tends not to teach a lot of techniques at a time. Instead he seems to prefer a focus on principle. It is very common in Martial Arts in general for people to get bogged down with learning techniques. With the sheer scope of Aikido this can get frustrating very quickly. Focusing on the syllabus too much can actually slow down the learning process.

However to delve into Takemusu it is necessary to have solid ground to work from. Study the basics enough, then move on, adapt, experiment and return again to the basics, the kihon. Constantly ensuring that training is still grounded in good principle and a Budo mindset. This kind of training would take many forms. Whether weapons practice, Taijutsu or Kokyu the idea is too free up the mind and see what has been truly understood by the body.

Take Jiyu Waza for example. Jiyu Waza is a free style practice common to most Aikido Dojo, usually one person acting as Tori and one or more as Uke. Regardless of the level of a student it is possible to see how well they have absorbed the training. A fixation on technique will quickly land the student in difficulty as their reaction time will be too slow. I would say to my students doing this exercise it is better to repeat the same technique 10 times than to pause in thought of what to do. Better still is is clear the mind and continuously move forwards absorbing the attacks before their at full strength. Stepping back should be only be done strategically.

To better enable a student to respond to changing circumstances, Simone had us practice at 3 different timings. One where Tori initiates the attack, another where we meet in the middle and the third waiting a moment and extending the attack. These timings are important to practice. Each equal in their own right. To practice just one of these would take training in far too specific a direction. For example by only focusing on the third of waiting and then extending the attack the important principle of moving forward would be lacking. Likewise by focusing on the first, a student may become too forward in their training and perhaps forget the softer side of training. For the concept of Takemusu to be explored, a student must first possess the correct reflexes in order to continually adapt.

This is in a way a goal of Kata, to instill these reflexes into the mind of a student. Adding a more free form of practice beside this and you see that has been absorbed. The student becoming one with the training can than start with Takemusu.

Freely moving the mind can become clear and enter into the moment, unconcerned for tomorrow or yesterday. In this way Aikido can be a way for people to become free of mental constraints and preconceptions.


Copyright Joseph Kennedy ©2015 DSC_1151-001
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