“Don’t move the Jo – move your hips”

This was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about the use of a Jo in Aikido, and it came over this past weekend at a seminar lead by Claude Berthiaume Sensei and hosted by The Aikido Institute of Newfoundland.

It’s been about a year since I last attended an Aikido seminar (I was unwell when Yumi Nakamura Sensei visited MUN Aikido), so I knew that it would be a taxing weekend. While I was certainly tired by the end of the seminar, it was the best kind of tired – one that left me with a feeling of harmony with my own body.

On the first day, I think the most challenging thing for me was actually the warm-up. I’m not in the best shape, and Sensei had us doing push-ups and crunches early on. It felt like I was the loudest person on the mats, especially as we got to the end of the second set of crunches. Most of the taisabaki (standing techniques) were techniques executed from Shihonage. It wasn’t always easy, because there are differences in how CAF (Canadian Aikido Federation) and USAF (United States Aikido Federation) start shihonage – CAF executes the attack from the hand that is on the same side as the forward foot, whereas USAF normally executes the attack from the same side as the back foot while stepping that back foot forward. Clear as mud, right? All told, we did this about 3 and a half hours, then practiced Jo kata (both single and paired practice) for about an hour.

The second day started off with taisabaki from Ryote dori (the attacker grabs both wrists). We worked through Shihonage (four direction throw), Kotegaeshi (forearm return), and Iriminage (entering throw). I struggled with these quite a bit – it was like my brain had gone on vacation without me! Sensei was kind enough to come over and give me quite a bit of assistance with all three techniques- I guess it was pretty obvious that I was struggling. At the end, we tried something I’ve never done before – executing all 3 techniques in succession with a single attacker. Basically, the idea is that you execute a technique, hanging on to the attacker as they get up, and then execute the next technique to return them to the mat. It was pretty intense, but the three techniques finally started to work and I felt that familiar “flowing” that seems to materialize when a technique is executed correctly. We ended off with an hour of Jo kata, which is when Berthiaume Sensei gave us the excellent advice.

There’s another aikido seminar this coming weekend, with Donovan Waite Sensei, which I expect will be quite enlightening as well.

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