Archives par mot-clé : régis soavi

Mobilité et conscience corporelle

Par Régis Soavi

Une des grandes forces de l’Aïkido réside dans sa très grande mobilité et ses mouvements de rotations. Les spirales qui en découlent entraînent une combinaison de forces centripètes avec son corrélat, la force dite centrifuge, créant une forme invisible, puisque sans cesse en déploiement : la sphère.

Les techniques qui utilisent une attaque par l’arrière nous offrent la meilleure visualisation de cette sphère. La rotation des planètes qui tournent à la fois sur elles-mêmes et dans le même temps autour d’une étoile nous donne elle aussi un bon exemple de ce que se mouvoir autour d’un centre veut dire. Quant aux météorites qui gravitent non loin, elles rebondissent sur l’atmosphère, ou aspirées par le centre de la planète, s’y écrasent alors que la plupart des comètes elles, s’en éloignent.

Entrer dans la sphère

Quand il y a rotation autour de plusieurs axes parfois mêlés, il devient difficile de savoir où sont les centres, où sont les périphéries, le devant et le derrière. L’un et l’autre peuvent se présenter tour à tour, ils peuvent même s’inverser. Ils deviennent interchangeables, que ce soit dans le cas de Tori comme de Uke, c’est pourquoi l’Aïkido présente de grands avantages sur le terrain des attaques par l’arrière. Quelle que soit la taille ou la grosseur du centre, c’est sa densité qui fait la différence.
O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba bien que de petite taille était capable de projeter un assaillant à grande distance grâce au déploiement de cette force centripète qui se transformait en force centrifuge puis en spirale et même en sphère qui roulait plus loin sur les tatamis. Comment créer cette sphère ayant un centre si dense qu’il devient possible de réaliser des projections de cette nature ? Les saisies par l’arrière nous en donnent l’opportunité. Techniquement elles commencent souvent par une attaque de type Shomen uchi ou Yokomen uchi qui se transforme en saisie d’un ou de deux poignets par l’arrière. C’est le déplacement de Tori qui provoque la mise en danger de Uke et par là même cette quasi-obligation, ou en tout cas cette opportunité, d’immobiliser Tori. Bien que pour les besoins de l’enseignement, il soit au début pédagogiquement nécessaire d’admettre que le partenaire saisisse la main tendue par Tori, cela deviendrait incompréhensible après quelques années de pratique. Je pense que l’on peut même dire que ce serait contre-productif si on est réellement intéressé par notre art. Les saisies directes des deux poignets ensemble par l’arrière sont difficile pour Uke qui préférera dans beaucoup de cas saisir les manches des keikogi. Si le corps est bien centré il est plutôt facile de sortir de cette difficulté seulement en restant concentré sur le Hara et en bougeant le Koshi. Les techniques pertinentes découlerons tout naturellement de la posture des deux partenaires, de leurs respirations respectives, de leur capacité à saisir l’opportunité ou le moment, ainsi que de la détermination que chacun d’entre eux mettra. Bien souvent si Tori suit son instinct réel et non supposé, s’il ne cherche pas une technique ou une clé mais agit avec spontanéité, souplesse et vigilance, il se débarrassera avec facilité de l’emprise de Uke. Du point de vue pédagogique il y a aussi un grand intérêt car les saisies arrières obligent les élèves à bouger de manière différente. En effet, beaucoup d’entre eux ont tendance à travailler en ligne, un peu comme en Karaté, à se tendre pour résister à la pression avec des Tai sabaki et des déplacements de plus en plus courts, la conséquence inévitable est que leurs techniques deviennent de plus en plus dures et, malgré tous leurs efforts, souvent inefficaces.

Régis Soavi ushiro waza la sphère

Imagination ou visualisation ?

Il y a une grande différence si la saisie a pour but une immobilisation « simple » ou une agression « pure et dure » avec les risques que l’on peut encourir. L’entraînement est un jeu de rôle où chacun est à sa place. Pour retrouver ou acquérir les capacités nécessaires au déploiement de notre force vitale il est indispensable de laisser la spontanéité agir grâce aux bases techniques que l’on a travaillées. La visualisation a cependant une place primordiale. La visualisation et l’imagination sont deux fonctionnements profondément différents. L’imagination est une production du cerveau et n’engage que lui, alors que la visualisation a son point de départ dans le Koshi, c’est une production de notre énergie vitale et elle engage tant l’esprit que tout le corps sans qu’il n’y ait l’ombre d’une séparation entre eux. Elle est un acte de concentration primordial et rejoint une sensibilité de type primaire qui surgit de l’involontaire. Elle permet à Uke de rendre les saisies ou les atemis plus concrets et donc à Tori de les ressentir comme suffisamment dangereux pour réagir, même s’ils sont contrôlés. L’imagination, elle, n’entraîne aucune action, tout au moins immédiate et ne peut être ressentie par Tori comme autre chose qu’une attitude ou une posture sans aucune force ni puissance, un mouvement imaginaire, un mouvement rêvé.

Travailler lentement

Pour un travail précis et une juste compréhension de la direction comme de la puissance des forces mises en mouvement, la lenteur me semble indispensable. On peut ainsi augmenter l’efficacité de la saisie sans risque pour le partenaire. Travailler lentement ne veut pas dire être lent mais plutôt travailler au ralenti. Il est important de ne pas se précipiter pour saisir un poignet ou une manche si en le faisant on se découvre, offrant ainsi au partenaire l’occasion de placer un atemi ou simplement de prendre le centre et par là même de nous déstabiliser. Lors d’une saisie en Ushiro katate dori kubi shime, il est très important de faire sentir que cette saisie peut se transformer en étranglement et est, déjà dans les faits, un étranglement (pour cela il suffit de presser sur la partie haute du sternum sans toucher au cou), mais surtout il faut avoir une posture de nature soignée, à la fois ferme, souple, et ne nous mettant pas en danger. C’est seulement grâce à cela que l’on peut comprendre ce que cette saisie a de dangereux. Si on va trop vite dès le début, quand on n’a pas encore la maîtrise de ces attaques, la saisie sera bâclée et la technique risque de se transformer en bagarre de chiffonniers.

la sphère

Si j’ai pas vu pas senti, je meurs (1)

Une des attaques les plus dangereuses que l’on peut avoir à subir est celle que pourrait faire un adversaire habile muni d’un couteau, dans un espace restreint, et qui plus est lorsqu’on a le dos tourné. Lors d’une rencontre amicale avec un combattant de MMA organisée par Karaté Bushido et à propos d’une attaque précisément dans le dos avec un tanto, Léo Tamaki formule cette sentence : « Si j’ai pas vu pas senti, je meurs ». On pourrait dire qu’elle passe inaperçue car elle est évoquée comme une évidence, et elle exprime une réalité incontestable. Elle touche du doigt l’essentiel, car si on ne peut pas voir de dos on peut sentir, pressentir. C’est justement pour cela que dans l’Aïkido comme dans tout art martial il est nécessaire de retrouver et développer la notion de Yomi (le fait de percevoir l’intention, qu’on peut aussi traduire par intuition). C’est indiscutablement un élément essentiel du développement de l’individu par la pratique. On raconte d’ailleurs une anecdote concernant un samouraï qui se retourne au dernier moment pour sauver sa vie en éliminant un ennemi qui l’attaquait alors qu’il avait le dos tourné. Au delà des histoires que nous ne pouvons vérifier par nous-mêmes, il est clair qu’aujourd’hui encore les notions de Yomi ou de Sakki (la volonté d’attaquer, le Ki destructeur) ont toujours droit de cité(2). Concernant surtout les attaques par l’arrière il est plus qu’essentiel de cultiver et d’entretenir notre sensibilité dans cette direction.
Quand la vie est en jeu des forces insoupçonnées peuvent surgir. Il est parfaitement impossible de s’entraîner à faire surgir ces forces, mais divers types d’entraînements dans les arts martiaux peuvent être considérés comme une préparation à l’imprévisible. Toutes les techniques en Aïkido, bien qu’elles ne portent pas ce nom, sont des Katas et leur but n’est pas d’apprendre à détruire un adversaire, un ennemi, mais de réveiller l’individu encore endormi en nous, pour permettre à toutes nos capacités d’être actives dès que l’on en a besoin. Cela ne veut pas dire qu’elles manquent d’efficacité, bien au contraire, car bien utilisées elles peuvent être plus que redoutables, mais il y a peu de chance qu’elles soient applicables à l’identique hors du contexte du dojo, car elles sont enseignées et pratiquées sans la contrainte d’un risque réel, comme par exemple une attaque dans la rue, et les conditions de leur application véritable ne sont pas réunies. Il suffit d’un petit rien pour que tout chancelle.

La peur

La peur, si on veut sortir d’une situation par le haut, est un élément déterminant qui peut changer toute la donne dans un sens comme dans l’autre. Si on est envahi par la crainte, ou si on n’a jamais été confronté à une situation critique, voire réellement dangereuse, il est extrêmement difficile de savoir comment on pourra réagir en cas d’agression. Lors des Randori que nous faisons à la fin de chaque séance dans notre École, et cela quel que soit le niveau, il y a toujours le risque des saisies ou des atemis par l’arrière. Il est donc donné une grande importance aux déplacements, mais encore plus à la sensation de danger qui peut se dégager du ou des Uke, et c’est grâce à cela que peut se développer un « quelque chose » qui sera l’amorce de ce que l’on pourrait appeler l’intuition. Il ne s’agit pas d’une mystique, d’une confiance dans une énergie céleste, mais plutôt d’une réalité que chacun d’entre nous connaît, souvent sans lui donner un nom, qui transcende le quotidien des personnes. Mais comme il s’agit d’une réalité que, a priori, nous ne maîtrisons pas, il est très difficile, et même impossible de compter dessus au risque de voir nos capacités s’évanouir au moment où on en aura le plus besoin. Développer nos capacités de perception au moyen de l’attention est donc un des buts de la pratique, mais ce qui est surtout indispensable, c’est que cela doit permettre qu’émergent des capacités intuitives réellement utilisables dans la vie quotidienne et a fortiori à l’impromptu ou dans les cas graves.

Action et perception

Les sciences cognitives ont ouvert un champ d’étude qui nous permet de comprendre de nombreux aspects de l’être humain, tant du point de vue de la pensée que de l’action. Elle permettent aux pratiquants d’arts martiaux que nous sommes de mettre des noms, d’éclaircir un enseignement qui pourrait paraître obscurantiste. Nous pouvons redonner ses lettres de noblesses à ce que nos maîtres nous ont enseigné lorsque cet enseignement est décrié comme étant une vision mystique du monde. Notamment en ce qui concerne nos perceptions lorsqu’elles sont considérées comme « extra-sensorielles » alors qu’elles ne sont que le fruit du travail et de l’entraînement quotidien d’un art comme l’Aïkido.
Aujourd’hui des chercheurs redéfinissent la perception ainsi : « La perception est une forme d’action. Elle n’est pas quelque chose qui nous arrive ou qui se produit en nous. Elle est quelque chose que nous faisons. » « Notre perception s’exprime dans le langage des potentialités motrices »(3).
C’est à ce sujet que le philosophe M. B. Crawford(4) a écrit : « Notre perception de ces potentialités ne dépend pas seulement de notre situation environnementale, mais aussi de la gamme de compétences pratiques que nous possédons. Face à quelqu’un qui lui cherche querelle dans un bar, un expert en arts martiaux perçoit la position de l’individu en question et la distance qui l’en sépare comme permettant si nécessaire de porter certain coups et en excluant d’autres. C’est la pratique et l’habitude qui lui permettent de voir l’agresseur potentiel sous cet angle. De même, il percevra sans doute le mobilier environnant et les objets à portée de main comme des affordances(5) accessibles en situation de combat. Autrement dit, il voit des choses qui échappent totalement à un quidam »

Ne rien négliger

Dans la pratique de l’Aïkido il n’y a rien d’inutile. Cependant si on néglige l’aspect perception ou le travail de la sensibilité (ce que l’on confond souvent avec la sensiblerie) au profit de la technique, on risque de passer à coté d’un grand pan de la pratique. L’inverse est vrai, bien sûr, mais l’un comme l’autre étant indispensable, il est malgré tout possible pour chacun de ne pas s’en tenir à ce que l’on connaît et d’accepter d’aller vers ce que l’on ne connaît pas, ce qui est à découvrir, ce qui nous paraît parfois mystérieux voire impossible.

Itsuo Tsuda et Régis Soavi 1980

Tsuda Itsuo Senseï

Un des exercices que nous faisait faire mon maître Tsuda Senseï, consistait en une projection de notre partenaire à partir de la position seiza. Cela nous paraissait extrêmement simple au début, tout au moins théoriquement, mais quand il s’agissait de le réaliser cela devenait un peu plus compliqué. Tori est assis immobile, derrière lui, Uke a saisi le keikogi au niveau des épaules. Il s’agit alors très simplement de s’incliner comme si on saluait, sans forcer, sans tension, un salut tout simple qui, produisant un vide, aspire le partenaire : celui-ci, pourtant solidement ancré sur les tatamis, et malgré le fait qu’il y met toute sa force, n’arrive pas à résister et chute en avant. De façon très logique dès qu’il y a une résistance on se tend, on contracte tout le corps, on s’énerve, on accuse le partenaire de ne pas jouer le jeu. J’ai pourtant vu de nombreuses fois Tsuda Senseï nous en faire la démonstration avec le sourire. J’ai tenté de le tester sur cette technique, rien à faire, il s’inclinait de manière inexorable avec la plus grande des simplicités. Son secret : la visualisation. Il nous disait si souvent quand nous pataugions dans les difficultés « Cessez de penser en termes d’adversité », puis il nous en faisait la démonstration, faisant chuter un élève en désignant du doigt un endroit choisi par lui et prononçant cette phrase magique : « Je suis déjà là », exprimant ainsi la réalisation concrète de sa visualisation.

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« Mobilité et conscience corporelle » un article de Régis Soavi publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°28) en avril 2020

Notes :

1) Léo Tamaki dans Karaté Bushido Officiel. (13 décembre 2019) GregMMA et Aikido [Vidéo] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoH4qjWKTfM&feature=emb_title
2) Yashima N°4 Mai 2019
3) Ava Noé, Action in Perception, MIT Press, Boston 2004, p. 1 et p. 106
4) Matthew B. Crawford, Contact, Édition La découverte 2019, p. 80
5) Intuitivités, potentialités.

Crédits Photos :
Paul Bernas, Didier Balick

Zanshin, a natural state of the body

By Régis Soavi

If we translate Zanshin by « sustaining attention after a fight or after a technique », even if we remain within the martial tradition we remain short of its profound meaning.

Tenshin: the heart of heaven

In the term Zanshin there are two Kanji: 残 (càn or zan), what remains, the residue, and 心 (Shin or Kokoro). If the meaning of the latter is known by all Aikidokas, it still seems to me necessary to specify its value because it corresponds to what we can rely upon to find the path towards fullness in life. For Itsuo Tsuda Senseï, a phrase reflected and animated the practices he proposed, both Aikido and Katsugen undo. This phrase – Tenshin  – he had translated it by « the heart of pure heaven ». He writes: « The word kokoro which I translated by ‘heart’ has the same etymology as the latter: the central organ of the circulatory system. Yet, its acceptation is totally different. The ‘heart’ in French is rather the feeling, while the kokoro in Japanese is neither quite the feeling, nor the spirit, nor the thought. It is something we feel inside ourselves, it rather comes close to the English mind. If we translate it by mental or psychic, it will again be different. The search for a kokoro that remains imperturbable before an imminent danger, which stays calm in any circumstances, is the key aim imposed on those who attempt to achieve perfection, in the craft of weapons. »(1) « Your spirit has to be free from any thought, good or bad. This state of soul is compared to pure Heaven – Tenshin »

Aikido: re-learning freedom

As soon as we step upon the Tatami floor, concentration arises. A simple salute towards the Tokonoma suffices for our body to react, to leave this state that could be described as day-to-day to enter the very particular state of Zanshin. It is fundamentally a natural state, a state where our biological animality (in the best sense of the word) arises again. All the tradition that we have been given by O Sensei and that has been transmitted to us by his direct student Tsuda Sensei is essential to understand this. It is in the way we perform exercises such as the vibration of the soul, the rowing exercise and many others – often wrongly equated with a warm-up – that we become aware of their importance. It is all the attention given to breathing that allows us to sense, at the physiological level, the circulation of Ki and that summons us back towards this state of concentration that Zanshin is. All this first part of an ordinary session in our school has been designed to bring us, to take us beyond ourselves, beyond what we have quite often become – an ordinary fellow of our society. Immediately, if we are attentive enough, we can feel its effects. We move on the Tatamis in a profoundly different way, what we feel, our perception of the other, of others, becomes at the same time sharper and more pronounced, wider and lighter. It is day after day, by immersing into this atmosphere, that we can both relearn the freedom of moving, a first step towards inner freedom, and feel our space, our spaces. Recovering the sensation of how the forces that surround us are positioned, discovering or rediscovering that nothing is finished, nor concluded, but that everything is connected, that Zanshin is a moment of an eternity that runs its course in all directions.

Daily life: an eye-opener

Without us being aware of it, without us acting in a voluntary manner, our body constantly reacts to the many aggressions from our environment that we undergo everyday. Whether these attacks come from bacteria, viruses or more simply the quality of our nutrition, our body responds in an adequate manner thanks to its immune system, its digestive system or any other system according to the dysfunction at stake. The body’s response, if the terrain is good, if our immune system is well awake for instance, is not limited to a few skirmishes here and there, the mobilization of the body is total and the fight can sometimes be of great violence. Once the fight is over the body does not put itself at rest immediately, it does not go back to sleep once the danger has gone (something our mental, on the contrary, would have perfectly admitted). Our involuntary system does not loosen its attention, eliminating up to the last bacterium, to the last virus or immobilizing, blocking them so that they become harmless. And even then it is not over yet, the body remains vigilant, keeping an eye on everything that happens, serene but attentive to the least movement of the aggressors, whatever and whoever they are. This spirit is the state of the natural and involuntary Zanshin of a body that reacts healthily and therefore the state of the exact opposite of an apathetic body. When all is really over, life somehow resumes its natural course. It is essential to facilitate that this work inside our body can be done with complete peace of mind without being frightened by the slightest pain or disturbing reaction. For who approaches for the first time a martial art – and in particular Aikido –, the aims are often many, and range from the need of moving to that of defending oneself, through all possible variants, real or fantasized. The discovery of Zanshin constitutes an integral part of Aikido teaching, and its deep understanding as well as its extension to our entire life sphere brings a greater tranquility when facing unpredictable events and allows one to live every day more fully. For it is eventually in day-to-day life that the usefulness of the practice can be experienced and appraised. Without being utilitarian it is always pleasant to see and verify what it brings us in our daily life. There cannot be real attention, concentration, nor pleasure in the achievement of some work without – even though we are not aware of it – the state of presence that we call Zanshin.

Circles in water

When the child throws a stone into the so peaceful water of a little pond, s/he stays watching the concentric circles s/he has created that spread and extend from the center. If s/he has kept her/his profound nature, if it has not been destroyed by adults, parents, educators or teachers, who attempt to explain her/him the scientific rationale beyond the phenomenon or who, pressed for their so precious time, give little importance indeed to this little insignificant game, then, immobile, contemplative but deeply concentrated, the child waits until the circles fade away, until their initial liveliness, while lessening more and more, becomes no longer recognizable, becomes one with the natural movement of the simmering water, slightly nudged by the wind. This so precious moment is also Zanshin, it is an instant that could even be considered as sacred, where the child’s Kokoro quietens down, when s/he recovers her/his primordial nature, her/his true nature.

School, or how to break this natural state

The entire school education aims to equip children with weapons for the future. Though the idea looks nice on paper, reality is completely different. The grading system, whether with figures (Translator’s note : In France, grades range from 0 to 10 or 20, letters are not in use.) or letters such as in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, generates fear, indeed anguish – always concern – and produces, in fact, more damage than benefits. In this case we do not work for the pleasure of discovering nor even for a concrete result but for a grade, an assessment, that are supposed to reflect our level in the system. Yet, for a century, countless pedagogy experts have denounced the harm done by this type of schooling system and mode of education. At the total opposite of the state of Zanshin one is waiting for the verdict, the result of the written exercise, test, or exam. Instead of developing the physical or intellectual capacities of the child, we transform her/him into a scared being or later a rebel who only aspires to get out of the system in which s/he is trapped, to breathe if only a little more freely. The damage is however not irremediable, this is also what our practice is for, reviving what should never have been abandoned nor destroyed.

Graduate first!

Who has never heard this sentence, that has now become a parental leitmotiv? Which parents have let their children follow the direction they had decided to take on their own, supporting them despite the general condemnation from their family or close circles? In France the new law4 making instruction mandatory from three to eighteen years old compels the parents, who sometimes chose home instruction because they became aware of the damage they have undergone in their own childhood, to still remain within the national education framework. To force their children to undergo exams and tests they have to pass, failing which they would have to be reintegrated in a state-approved school. How can we allow the child, the teenager, to discover, rediscover or preserve what s/he has always had and should never have lost: Zanshin, this state of concentration that remains beyond the act, this instinctive state that gives us pleasure, satisfaction, and strengthens our capacities by allowing them to benefit from the experience acquired in this moment thanks to this slight standstill where something remains suspended? The child, boy or girl, during this uncertain time, where anything can play out, escapes the world of social conventions, becomes strong, of this strength that no one will ever be able to deprive her/him of, s/he opens her/himself to an intelligence that only belongs to her/him and that is created by no doctrine or ideology.

Ai-uchi, ai-nuke

From Zanshin a world can be rebuilt if it was destroyed or simply damaged. In the Zen practice it is the spirit that remains or the spirit of the gesture that allows one to recover what has been lost, in Aikido it is not the fighting spirit that allows us to live in harmony but rather what is behind, in depth, and that breathes life into our action. Itsuo Tsuda Sensei tells us the story of this great 17th century master Sekiun Harigaya who had found inner peace. « After having been tormented for a long time by the uncertainty that prevails when facing an extreme situation, where no recall to any precedent can be used to justify ourselves, he found : ‘Defeating the weakest, being defeated by stronger than yourself, and mutually annihilating each other among equals, these are dead-end solutions.’ Even if we win time and time again, this is, according to him, only bestiality. Those are only wolf and tiger fights. One will always remain in relativity, in opposition. One has to get out of these to find the true path. How to get out of bestiality to find the true path? Especially in a situation where the result is not measured with scores. The accepted formula has been so far ai-uchi, mutual annihilation. When aiming to defeat the other, while trying to preserve our own integrity, we lose it all, because at the last moment fear takes over and paralyses us. In order to get out of this duality that torments us, we decide to die, abandoning all what we have. ‘When you get my skin, I’ll get your flesh. When you get my flesh, I’ll get your bones’, so goes the bravado formula. We still remain in bestiality. After long years of meditation, Sekiun finds his formula ai-nuke, to mutually overcome. The basis of this formula is the discovery of the kokoro, immutable, eternal, in which there is no annihilation of the opponent, but only respect of the other. This ai-nuke shows a position quite close to that of Master Ueshiba’s aikido. If one faces the other with no aggressivity, it is ai-nuke, but if one keeps the least aggressivity, it is ai-uchi. But how can one get empty of any aggressivity when one precisely is in a situation of agressivity where at risk of losing everything? This non-aggressivity, if it comes not from a moralist or a pacifist religious, but from someone who had experienced fifty-two real fights until the age of fifty, can have a completely different value. »(3) Zanshin lies at the heart of the problem, because it is about a presence to oneself as well as the other, without aggressivity, without expectation, without any search for any result. Zanshin is neither the end nor the beginning of a movement, it does not illustrate the power of one over an opponent, it is a time, an undefined space-time, but which gets concretely realized. Recovering the Kokoro from childhood, recovering concentration, the simple joy of feeling fully alive, no longer being satisfied with the superficial aspect of the survival that is imposed to us by society, this is the path that is proposed to us in Aikido. Even if this path demands from us rigor and determination, continuity and introspection, I have always felt and experienced it as easier than resignation, renunciation and hence disillusion or passivity.

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Article by Régis Soavi published in Dragon Magazine (speciale Aikido n° 27) january2020.

References:

1) Itsuo Tsuda, La voie des dieux [The Path of gods], Le Courrier du Livre, 1982, p.61.
2) Itsuo Tsuda, Cœur de ciel pur [The Heart of pure heaven], Le Courrier du Livre, 2014, p.91.
3) Itsuo Tsuda, La voie des dieux [The Path of gods], Le Courrier du Livre, 1982, p.63.

Photos credits: Bas Van Buuren, Sara Rossetti

Life Force

By Régis Soavi

Why talk about life force while the topic seems old-fashioned (it is considered today as a kind of ideological remnant from the 60’s), or remains apparently in the privileged field of a small quantity of people looking for mysterious effects?
If physical force remains for many reasons and in many cases an important area, it is not a permanent and inalterable state. There are many factors that we must take into account: the person’s age, health, mental state, social situation, world outlook, etc. The same applies to the so-called mental force, or more commonly speaking, the strength of character.

Itsuo Tsuda showing the ventral points during a conference
Itsuo Tsuda showing the ventral points during a conference

The spectacular

It has always been a dream for young people to have the body of a god or a goddess, the state of the body being clearly supposed to be reflected by its appearance. A way for evaluating someone’s health status, strength or power is her/his figure. Statues from ancient Greece or Rome would provide as many models. The focus was on aesthetic of shapes and proportions. The same applies today, but models have changed, since they now belong mainly to trendy circles of the “celeb society”: actors, high-level athletes, models, etc. Even when they have not been retouched, the images of these new models we are being offered dangle before us a completely unreal world of innocent young people, bubbling with health, hopping, and performing “exploits” with utmost ease. “The whole life of societies in which prevail modern conditions of production announces itself as a huge accumulation of spectacles. All what was directly experienced has moved away in a representation” (1). In this world of sham, no wonder we are considered troublemakers when presenting other values than those acted by advertisements devoted to Economy and a few people’s will to power – all of this at the expense of majority.

A society issue

2019 society is not the XXth century society, and even less the XIXth century society. At that time physical force had a natural – would I dare say primitive – aspect but it is no longer the case. If, for instance, medical breakthroughs in the West could save people and enabled to extend lifetime, as a backlash they made many people dependant on treatments and drugs, thereby creating a society of assisted persons whose life force seems to have sorely weakened. Pharmaceutical companies are not shy about producing profusely more and more substances, new molecules, supposed to make life easier.
One of the examples that recently caused a scandal is that of drug-addicts on prescription. Opiate-based painkillers, through the addiction they generate, have not just brought already two million people to dependance, but also hundreds of thousands to addiction, not knowing any more how to get their dose, and even – dramatically – more than forty-eight thousand people to death in the US in 2017 (2). In some countries, sports medicine too has drugged athletes without hesitation for decades in order to get their country a medal. Records are continually surpassed in sports, as well as in any place where competition is raging, but it seems difficult to win – or even just to be selected – without having body and medicine specialists in one’s technical staff.
Natural physical strength alone does not suffice any longer, more, much more is required today. Food supplements are being offered, cocktails of ever more sophisticated substances to exceed natural human limits and even sometimes simply to be always in shape, or at least to appear so, and when the consequences of treatments – or rather the ill treatment – of the body occur it is already too late to turn back.

Human Ecology

A part of the new generation becoming aware of the state of the planet could be the trigger for a more global awareness. The absolute necessity to reconsider not only the production of consumer products but also the patterns of this production should – if pushed a bit further – lead society to understand this imperative need for a change of orientation.
If technology has convenient aspects, should we give up thinking by ourselves and follow the tracks pre-printed by software, algorithms, or web-browsers? Western medicine, which is no science but an art, has progressed a lot in understanding and treating certain human diseases, but is it a reason to give up our free will and place ourselves in its hands without seeking to understand or feel what works best for us? Society over-feeds us with recommendations which, if they do not make us laugh anymore, often leave us indifferent: “Eat move”, “Eat five fruits and vegetables a day”, “Watch out your cholesterol level, eat low-fat products”, “Respect scrupulously the number of sleeping hours”, etc. The modern human being comes to follow directives from people who think for him about his health, his work, his relationships, everything is prepared, pre-digested, for the sake of our well-being, in order to realise what writers like Ievgueni Zamiatine, as soon as 1920, Aldous Huxley in 1932, or George Orwell in 1949 had described in their so-called anticipation novels, that is, “an ideal world”. Are we already living in the world Huxley predicted in his 1961 conference?
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it” (3).
Far from me the idea of carrying forward reactionary or backward-looking ideologies which tend to bring their solutions with the blow of “there is only to” or advocating the resurgence of patriarchal or racist values which fortunately are – or hopefully should be – exceeded. The steps to be taken belong to a completely different dimension. It is nothing less than recovering human values and this seems to be the real revolution. Aikido carries this hope, but we must not take the wrong direction.

Respiration Ka Mi: activation of life force
Respiration Ka Mi: activation of life force

Life force

Popular expressions such as “intestinal fortitude” or “to have guts” express well how important this region of the body was considered by most people who lived not so long ago. Courage did not originate in reflexion but rather in action from the bottom of the body.
Life force was a field well-known to martial arts masters and all of them paid the greatest attention to make it one of the main matters in their teachings, if not their backbone. All those who had the opportunity to know the first generation masters after O Sensei know that the value of Nocquet Sensei, Tamura Sensei, Yamaguchi Sensei or Noro Sensei, as well as so many others, did not originate in their – obviously flawless – technical quality but rather in their presence as a mere reflection of their personality, their life force.
Itsuo Tsuda Sensei, an Aikido master, also belonged to this generation but he was also one of the first generation masters after Haruchika Noguchi Sensei in the art of Seitai, a field on which he wrote quite significantly ever since his first book The Non-Doing, from which I have taken a few excerpts.
“From the point of view of Seitai, the abdomen is not merely a container for various digestive organs, as we are taught in anatomy. Already known in Europe under its Japanese name of ʻharaʼ, the belly is the source and storage centre of the vital energy.” (4)
“[L]ife acts as a force which gives cohesion to the elements we absorb. […]
This cohesive force is what we call ʻkiʼ. […]
Seitai is not interested in the details of the anatomical structure but in the way each person’s behaviour reveals the condition of this cohesive force.
As it is, this cohesion is spontaneously searching for balance and it manifests itself in two diametrically opposite ways: in excess or in deficit. When ki, cohesive force or vital energy, is in excess, the organism automatically rejects this excess in order to regain its balance. The confusing thing is that this rejection, far from being simple, takes many different and complex forms. We can see its manifestations in the way a person speaks, makes gestures or acts. On the contrary, when ki is in deficit, the organism acts to fill the deficiency, by attracting towards itself the ki of others, i.e. their attention.” (5)
In Seitai, there is a way to perceive the state of the koshi and life force, namely just by checking the elasticity of the third ventral point which lies approximately two fingers under the navel. If the point is positive, that is, if one feels it bouncing when pressed on, then everything is right, one will recover rapidly in case of difficulty or disease; on the other hand, if the fingers go deep and come back only slowly, if the belly is soft to the touch, then the body is in difficult condition and this lack of tonicity reveals the state of life force. I prefer to give no more details, so as to prevent presomptuous or ill-informed handymen from beginning to touch everything. Anyway you can try on yourself, but not on others even if they agree, the risk of disrupting their biological rythm and therefore their health is too great, it is no use playing the sorcerer’s apprentice.
Life force is what makes us rise again after sinking. It is what enables us to bring to reality projects that sometimes seem unrealizable.

 Representation of the hara, Basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, France
Representation of the hara, Basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, France

The Seitai technique: an orientation

Seitai provides in our daily life the tools we lack to take care of our life force. Practising Katsugen Undo (Regenerating movement), as well as the suitable Taisos according to Taihekis (bodily habits), or first aid techniques is just the visible part of it, its essence is to be found in its philosophy of life and understanding of human being. All attention given to the education of young parents, the baby care, how to make the ki circulate, to respect everyone as an individual rather than referring to general standards, all this makes it a science of the particular, as Tsuda Itsuo Sensei liked to qualify it in his so-entitled book.
If workshops are occasions for me to provide practical indications which enable people to recover a good health condition and get their life force back when weakened, I am always relying on the indivuals’ capacity to react, to understand that this implies a need for a different path, instead of dismissing their ability in favor of a technique, an idol, or a guru.
Without life force, physical force labours in finding a way out, it goes round and eventually disturbs the individual her/himself who does not know how to find her/his balance any more.
Life force has no moral standards, it can indeed be used in a relevant or irrelevant way but if it is gone, it is no use discussing about the value of the aims to be reached or about the prospects society is offering to us.
There are lots of questions about its nature, its origin, even its domestication. Some wish they could measure it thanks to highly developed technological devices, like for example, sophisticated electrodes capable of recording the subtle answers emitted by the brain. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately – considering the high risks of manipulation –, that seems impossible for the time being. Life force is of a totally different nature, one can understand it when one recovers the sensation of ki in one’s own body. But what is ki? In order to rediscover it, Tsuda Sensei offers us a clue in a few words:
“Ki is the motor of all instinctive and intuitive manifestations of living beings. Animals do not try to justify their actions, but manage to maintain a biological balance in nature. In man, the extraordinary development of the intellect threatens to destroy all biological equilibrium, to the point of total destruction of every living being.” (6)

Aikido: an art to awaken life force

Aikido is easily at the heart of many polemics about its refusal of competition, its ideal of non-violence, its lack of modernity, even its alleged inefficiency. It seems to me that it is precisely time to affirm the values of our art – and they are numerous. In the practice of Aikido, what is determining is not physical force, it is rather the ability to use it; similarly, as far as technique is concerned, the most important thing is adapting it to the concrete situation, and this is impossible without our life force been awakened. To be put in situation on the tatamis day after day, session after session, if without concession and at the same time without brutality, opens our eyes and enables us to develop and find again what animates the human being, namely a force, a vitality too often allowed to atrophy. The power that can be developed but also the tranquillity, the inner quietness that can be found again are the visible manifestation of it, the reflection of what is called Kokoro in Japan.
No need to compare with other practices because, whatever criticism is made of it, even if Aikido merely helped to allow the awakening, the maintenance or improvement of life force, would it not have fulfilled its duty to practitioners? Would it not be relevant to consider it one of the main martial arts?
Life force is at the heart of all disciplines since the origin of time and, if all martial arts evolve, it remains the essential element to their practice.

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« La force vitale » un article de Régis Soavi publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°26) en octobre 2019

References:
(1) Guy Debord, La société du spectacle [The society of the Spectacle], éd° Buchet/Chastel, 1969, p. 9
(2) “Médicaments antidouleurs : overdose sur ordonnance” [Pain-relieving drugs: prescription overdose], newspaper Le Monde, 16th October 2018
(3) Aldous Huxley, speech pronounced in 1961 in California Medical School of San Francisco (available online on https://ahrp.org/1961-aldous-huxleys-eerie-prediction-at-tavistock-group-california-medical-school/)
(4) Itsuo Tsuda, The Non-Doing, Yume Editions, 2013 (1973), p. 191
(5) ibid., pp. 195-196, 201
(6) Itsuo Tsuda, The Dialogue of Silence, Yume Editions, 2018 (1979), p. 101

Seizing, an art of detachment

By Régis Soavi

Seizing in itself is not the difficulty, it’s the coagulation of ki in the wrist, the arms or around the body that causes a problem and blocks us, and it’s through detachment that we can get free of it. The way to achieve this is visualization. Tsuda Senseï provides us with an example in his second book The Path of Less:

Aide-mémoire Itsuo Tsuda saisie
Drawing by Master Tsuda showing different types of seizures.

« Aïkido for me is an art of becoming a child again. […] It takes art to become a child without being childish.
[…] John, for example, tackles me from behind. I want to crouch down to sit, but he prevents me from doing so. He has biceps twice as big as mine and weighs almost 200 pounds (90 kilos). I cannot move, he is holding me so tightly. What should I do? Throw him before I sit down? I try but I cannot do it because he is too heavy and too strong.
So I become a child. I see a wondrous seashell on the beach and bend down to pick it up. I forget John, who is still grasping me from behind. (There is an important technical detail here: I move one foot forward to make two sides of a triangle with the other foot, because it is more concentrated that way.) There is flow of ki, starting with me and moving towards the seashell, whereas before, the ki was frozen at the thought of John. John’s 200 pounds become very light, and he falls forward over my shoulders.
How is it that with different ideas, we obtain opposite results, while the situation remains the same?
The idea of throwing provokes resistance. In the child’s gesture, there is the joy of picking up the shell that makes one forget the enemy’s presence. » (1)

Grabbing, appropriating

There are many ways of seizing and it is the intention put into it that is often determinant. Some of them can be considered as superficial or even unharmful, others more dangerous, like for instance those which carry a mark of appropriation or others which can sometimes be insidious and insistent.

The scenography which allows training in Aikido considers seizing as the result of an act manifesting itself with some kind of aggressivity. This act in itself is already an attempt to appropriate the other person, so as to use him in some way, rob him, destroy him, destroy his person or personality, setting apart the well-founded cases which are not of our concern in this example. What I am talking about is the abuse of a power, whether it be real or unreal, known or desired, over the other, this other person being presumed unable to react when faced to such a display of strength.

Assuming power

In the animal world, the power of an individual or clan in the bosom of a larger group of the same kind matches quite definite criteria, generally in relation to reproduction, preservation or to the defense of a species. As a consequence, it is borne and finally accepted by the whole group; in case of any attempt to contest, genetic or merely ancestral rituals are meant to clarify the situation.

In human societies, particularly in ours which would like itself to be more modern in some respect, the need for assuming power over the other person seems to me more like a dysfunction, or even a disease, which are fully created by the behaviours induced by civilization. Uncertainty about one’s own power, as well as the conditionings exerted by all those already installed in the bosom of society bring about frustration and lead human beings to try to reconquer their power through words or even acts, trying where this power doesn’t lie, where they won’t find it, that is in the other person who anyway does not detain it. But on the other hand, it forces them mentally to take all the risks implied by this vain hope. The arising of such aggressivity is often due to a lack or deficit of one’s own power, whether admitted or not, that one tries to make up. Pressure undergone and felt, hence experienced as such, sometimes since early childhood brings in people the will to reappropriate what they feel intimately robbed of, deprived of, or even what they just lost. It makes them dangerous persons, merely due to their frustration. We can all understand and feel that kind of thing when helplessly faced to an administration, or when put under power by somebody against whom there’s apparently no possible opposition. From that point, there’s just one step to becoming aggressive, which some people take, while others manage to be reasonable, resign themselves because they have already accepted this state of domination out of habit and they daily undergo it. If a few people are only hardly moved, it’s because they have already overcome these difficulties and are not damaged in their own power, never having lost it or having already recovered it.

Prisoner

« It’s a case of the biter bit » says the proverb and this reversal of perspective is indeed what happens when seizing. We forget too easily that the one who is seizing becomes prisoner of what he has seized. He can’t get rid of it without risking to lose something in the process he has initiated. His freedom, if he has any at all, is now transferred to the one he thought he could detain or retain. He becomes a jailer to the other person, who will only think of getting free, who will put all his strength, intelligence, sometimes all his craftiness or even perfidiousness into it, because he is totally within his right and nobody can blame him for it. Our society generates this type of alienating behaviour in which both persons try to free themselves, one against the other, instead of moving to another dimension which would be more human, intelligent, and respectful of the this other person. Wanting to change these behaviours might seem utopic, yet if Aïkido exists and continues to be an art at the service of mankind, it is maybe to assert and demonstrate that, like others have already stated, other relations are possible between people and we aïkidokas are not the only ones who wish to continue in this direction.

Respiration, an answer to a specific situation

It is through ventral respiration and the calmness it brings about that one can find the immediate solution to some difficult situations. To prepare for that, it is not absolutely necessary to be an outstanding technician, or someone brave as a blizzard, or a very competent analyst but on the other hand there is need to recover this force which has taken refuge at the very bottom of our body, of our kokoro, or which even sometimes has been scattered in multiple defense systems. Trying to find a defensive solution in violent martial arts when faced with the awareness of our weakness, real or assumed, is just dodging the issue, seeking an alternative, or worse, forging ahead regardless. Aïkido, by its philosophy, suggests another direction but if this fails to be heard and above all understood, it may well cause Aikido to lose its justification, its singularity.

Attacks in Aïkido are just a way of setting a situation in order to enable practitioners to solve a problem, or even a conflict, which by the way puts them in opposition more with themselves than to with their partners. Seizings, for instance, often represent attempts to immobilize the body, therefore to block the other’s movement, through imprisonment of the wrists, arms, trunk, keïkogi or any other part which can be grabbed for this purpose. Sometimes, however, seizings may follow on from an attempt to strike that has failed. They are seldom solely a matter of blocking; considered in the perspective of a fight, they should almost always be followed by an Atemi or a final immobilization. They are only the first act, the first scene of a play which is much longer, if one may say so. It might seem paradoxical but it is through working on seizings that one will discover detachment.

Sensibility, instinct

Quite before seizing or hitting materializes, our sensibility is touched by something invisible even though very physical. This may be inexplicable as scientific knowledge currently stands, but this is something we know well, and even sometimes very well. That’s what makes us move, dodge, although we have seen nothing but simply felt it in an indefinable way. In order to give a clearer example, one which everybody has been able to verify in one way or another, in different circumstances, I would like to write about gazing. Gazing carries an energy, an extremely concrete Ki that our instinct can perceive. Haven’t you ever experienced, while taking a walk one evening or one night, feeling something indescribable behind you as if someone was gazing at you, watching you; you turn around, nobody there, and still the sensation lingers? The sensation, if you are not at peace, can turn into anxiety or perhaps trigger an « irrational-since-there’s-nobody » fear, when at the angle of the street behind a half-opened curtain you suddenly discover somebody observing you – or on an overhanging roof a cat watching you. The gaze of cats, and of animals in general, as well as the gaze of humans when intently observing something or somebody, carries an extremely powerful Ki. Our instinct can feel it, but it all depends on our state of mind at that moment. If we are talking with a friend, if we are lost in our thoughts after a love encounter for instance, our instinct, if not well-prepared, will have difficulty feeling this kind of things. The same obviously applies when we are worried, frightened or anguished, in this case all our being is somehow weakened, it loses its instinctive abilities.

Discovering the direction taken by Ki

Aïkido enables us to re-discover and conduct our instinctive abilities. It is thanks to a slow work on ourselves and our sensations that will appear again what we have often let go to sleep, rocked as we were by the comfort due to modern society which may seem so reassuring to us.

The work based on seizing corresponds, like everything we do in Aïkido, to a process of renewed learning and to a training of the body as a whole so that there will no longer be any separation between body and spirit. First of all, when our partner gets closer, there is no question of waiting kindly for him to seize us as requested, our whole body must feel the directions followed by the different parts of his body: arms, legs, his bearing points, all of this without looking, without observing, because it would already be too late. With unexperienced beginners, if the exercise is done slowly enough, they will be able to discover the routes taken by their partner’s Ki, the force lines. Since they work without any risk, they start again trusting the reactions and sensations of their bodies. During sessions, I don’t only show the techniques, I am constantly on the move, serving as Uke to one person, as Tori to another; without blocking them, I make them feel the direction their body must take by putting myself in the situation, making ki more material, by materializing the force lines, visualizing the openings they can use, while allowing them to act and respond as they will.

Discovering the Non-doing

Seizing can be a first step on the path that leads to what Lao Tseu and Tchouang Tseu would name Wu wei, the Non-acting, and it was the basis of my master Itsuo Tsuda’s teaching. How to teach what can’t be taught, how to show the invisible, how to guide a beginner or even an experienced practitioner towards what is the essence of the practice in our School? What is difficult to explain with words is easily understood when we let sensation guide us. To do so we have to take a few steps backward. To let go of our acquiring and piling up habits, those consumer reflexes of people always ready to fill up their trolleys with various products, techniques which are more or less modern, fashionable or old style, miraculous, easy and effortless, or even tough but efficient. Advertising is today the source of many illusions, luring its clients with colorful wonders of a world that has become so virtual. When will the new Wii console enable us to practice Aïkido with enhanced reality glasses and a partner whose potentiometer can be adjusted depending on our level, our shape, or our mood? But maybe I am behind and it already exists.

Seizing with Ki

Young children know and naturally use a certain way of seizing which is extremely efficient. It is a seizure devoid of any useless contraction. When they seize a toy they put all their ki into the act and when they let go of this toy they do it with complete indifference, there is no more Ki in it. On the other hand they have an incredible capacity when they don’t want to let go of what they have seized and are holding tight in their small hand. If this is something dangerous, their parents must sometimes unfold their fingers one by one, though their hand is so small and devoid of any true muscular strength as adults mean it. They know in a manner completely unconscious how to use Ki, they don’t need to learn, unfortunately they often lose this ability for the benefit of what is reasonable and most of the time education and schooling are responsible for this.

To learn again how to seize like a small child, without tension, and thus discover natural prehension. I often give as an example the way birds alight on a branch: they have skin micro-sensors in the middle of their paws which inform receptors which, thanks to these indications, stimulate reflex functions at the level of the involuntary, and give the order to their fingers to close as soon as they touch the branch. This manner of seizing avoids contortions, failures, and enables a very subtle adequacy of the members to the place caught (they catch). A quality seizure is a seizure which uses the palm of the hand as first contact, then the fingers close up on the object, the limb, the Keïkogi. If we act in this way, seizing is faster, without any excessive tensions, and it has remarkable efficiency, allowing therefore a good quality work with a partner.

The only seizures which respect the other one’s freedom are light but powerful, like for instance that of a small child who wants to take along one of his parents to look at a small frog he’s just seen in the tall grass and is curious about, or like that of two beings, friends or lovers, bound by tenderness and respectful of each other.

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(1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of Less, p. 175, Yume Editions, Paris, 2015 (trans. from La Voie du dépouillement, Le Courrier du Livre, 1975)

Article by Régis Soavi published in Dragon Magazine (speciale Aikido n° 25) april 2019.

 

 

 

Misogi

Misogi 禊 is widely practised among shintoists.
It consists of an ablution, sometimes under a waterfall, in a stream, or in the sea and allows a purification of the body at both physical and psychical levels. In a broader sense, Misogi encompasses a whole process of spiritual awakening. Misogi is also a way to relieve the being of what overwhelms him, so to allow him to wake up to life. Water has always been considered one of its essential elements.

Like water, Aîkido is a way to achieve Misogi

Founder of Aïkido O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba kept on telling his students that the practice of this Art is above all a Misogi.

Aïkido is one of the Japanese martial arts for which the main character, the very nature, is, like water, fluidity. The teaching brought by Itsuo Tsuda Senseï who was during ten years a direct student of the Founder Moriheï Ueshiba has definitely confirmed it. Although his words seem to have largely been forgotten, he kept on repeating that « in Aïkido there is no fighting, it’s just the art of uniting and separating ». However, when you watch an Aïkido session, it seems that two people are fighting each other. In fact one of them plays the role of the assaillant, but in real he is a partner, facing him there is no aggressivity, you won’t see any malicious gesture, no violence, even if the response to the attack may be impressive because of its efficiency.

Overall, the Aïkido practised in the Itsuo Tsuda School is an Art of great fluidity, an art in which sensitivity and caring for the partner have the main part, and it is always through the smoothness of a first part practised individually that an Aïkido session begins.

Far from starting with warm-up exercices, an Aïkido session begins with smooth, slow but still invigorating exercises. Breathing coordination is essential, as it allows us to harmonize with Ki, and thereby to take a step forward to discover a world with an additionnal dimension, the « World of Ki »

This world is not a revelation, it’s more what comes to light, what appears clearly when one recovers one’s sensitivity, when rigidity vanishes into thin air and that the living appears through. It is often women who first understand the importance of such a way of practising. That is why so many women practise in our school because they have experienced the bitter taste of sexist oppression in our society and they find in this art a way, a path, far beyong the simple martial art.

Ki, a driving force

Ai 合 Union, Harmony
Ki 気 Vital energy, Life
Do道 Path, Way, Tao

Ki is not a concept, a mystical energy nor a sort of mental illusion. We can feel Ki. In fact everybody knows what it is, even if, in Western countries nowadays, we don’t give it a name. Learning to feel it, to recognize it, to make the most of it, is necessary for who wants to practise a martial art, and even more if you practise Aïkido. In Aikido, if you don’t focus on Ki, only the empty form of its contents remains, this form becomes quickly a fight, a struggle in which the strongest, or the most cunning will manage to defeat his partner. We are really far away from the founder’s teaching for whom it was an art of peace, an art in which there is neither winner, nor defeated. Each movement of the partner is accompanied by a complementary movement from the other partner, like the water that marries each roughness, every nook, leaving nothing behind or separate.

misogi
Calligraphie de Itsuo Tsuda

If the beginnings are usually tough, it’s because people have lost part of their mobility
and mostly because they have become hard so to be protected from the world around. They’ve built a carapace, an armor, certainly protective, but which has become a second nature and an invisible prison. To have Ki flow in our body again, so to recover fluidity, and follow a teaching based on sensitivity enables us to understand physically the Yin and the Yang.

Bathing in a sea of Ki

Exercices and basic or advanced techniques have not only in common the breath which is nothing but the materialization or even better the visualisation of Ki, but they also allow to become aware of our body, physically and of our sphere of ki, which the Indians call the AURA, and that we have today practically forgotten almost everywhere.

What modern science and in particular neuroscience has been discovering for a few years is only a small part of what everyone can discover on his own and put into practice in his daily life simply through the practice of Aïkido as Itsuo Tsuda Senseï taught it.

He would repeat over and over again that Aïkido as presented by his Master Morihei Ueshiba is the union of Ka the inspiration, the ascending force, the square, the weft and Mi, the exhalation, the downward force, the cercle, the chain.
Ka being in Japanese a pronounciation for 火 fire (which appears for example as a radical in the word Kasaï 火災, wild fire) and Mi the first syllable of Mizu 水 water, the whole forming the word KAMI 神 which means divine in the sense of the divine nature of all things. Itsuo Tsuda would add that « In this gloss one mustn’t see a similar value to that of a scientific etymology. It comes from punning, the use of which is common among mystics ». [1]

I have never seen such fluid movements as when he wanted us to feel a technique he showed to us. Moreover, in his dojo there used to be no accidents, nobody injured, everything would be in a flow of Ki both respectfull and generous but at the same time firm and rigorous, that I can hardly find today in the sports halls where aïkidokas have their trainings.

The dojo, an essential place

Do we really need a special place to practise Aïkido? If we talk about the surface we need for falls, we could lay tatamis anywhere, from the moment we are sheltered from bad weather.
In his book Cœur de ciel pur Itsuo Tsuda gives us his extremely clear view of what should be a dojo, he who was Japanese was in the best posititon to give us a glimpse.

« The School of Respiration is materially a “dojo”, this particular space in the East, which refers less to the material place itself, than to the energy space. As I said before, a dojo is not a space divided into parts and provided for certain exercices. It’s a place where spacetime is not the same as in a secular place. The atmosphere is particularly intense. One enters and leaves the space bowing so to get sacralized and desacralized.
Spectators are admitted, provided they respect this atmosphere […]. They are not to parody the practice for free, with word or gesture. I am told that in France [or in Italy] one can come across dojos that are simply gyms or sports centers. Anyhow, as far as I am concerned, I want my dojo to be a dojo and not a sports club with a boss and its regulars, so as not to disturb the sincerity of the practitionners. This does not mean that they must keep a sullen and constipated face. On the contrary, we must maintain the spirit of peace, communion and joy. » [2]

A sacred space therefore and yet fundamentally non religious, a secular space, a space of great simplicity where the freedom to be as we are exists, beyond the social. And not what we have become with all the compromises we had to accept in order to survive in society. This freedom remains inside us, deep within us in our intimate heart, our Kokoro 心 as Japanese language talks so well about it, and is only asking for a chance to be revealed.

Notes :
1 Itsuo Tsuda The Science of the Particular, Yume Editions 2015 p. 137
2 Itsuo Tsuda (posth.) Cœur de ciel pur, ed. Le Courrier du Livre 2014 p. 113 [trans. Itsuo Tsuda School]

Taiheki, the revelator

By Régis Soavi.

Noro Sensei, in the 70’s, used to tell us that O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba would sometimes reproach his learners for their lack of attention when they phoned from a phone booth, concentrated as they were on their conversation: “You must be ready under any circumstances, whatever you do!” he would say.

Aikido opts for a natural position, with no guard stance, which is called Shizen Tai. But a natural posture is not a laid-back posture as we understand it today, concentration and attention mustn’t be eased in any case. Given that the most widespread guard stance in Aikido remains Hammi no Kamae, it depends more than we believe, on the polarization of energy in the body, as do all the other guards.

Kamae, the body’s instinct

I remember what Maroteaux Sensei had told us during one of my first Aikido sessions at the “Montagne Sainte-Geneviève” dojo: “You open the door, a dog jumps at your throat, what do you do?” Obviously I remained speechless, but this question he had asked us had shattered me – I was a young practioner of martial arts quite sure of himself at the time –  and this became the root of my research on Kamae.

Assuming a guard stance is the response to an act of aggression or to the sensation of danger. This response, coming from someone who does not know martial arts, will be instinctive whereas it will be the result of training coming from a practioner. Personal research can lead the practitioner to use his body in a manner different from what he had learned and for this he will find a positioning or a guard that suits him, sometimes a more appropriate one, sometimes one meant as a trap suggesting an opening or a weakness on his part. Even if there are many ways to assume a guard stance, hence to protect ourselves, we must take our own body into account, in spite of all we have learned, despite the many years of training, ultimately instinct will be our guide. The work in martial arts, far from being pointless, will rather be in this case a backing, a support. Training may sometimes induce over-confidence, a belief in techniques, postures which, though beautiful on pictures or on the tatamis, do not correspond to any reality in daily life. Finding the right posture depends on each person’s body. Far too many practitioners try by working very hard to model their body in order to bring it into line with the idea they have of their art, or more simply with the efficiency they hope to gain. We consider the aesthetics of the art but then we miss its depth. We can see the work which has been done but we are not aware of the deformations acquired because of it. So many students repeat an incredible number of times the same exercise, the same technique thus hoping to reach the mastery of their art by imitating the master or simply the teacher, while they are instead following the path of deformation without realizing. One shall not be surprised by the number of accidents or disabilities resulting from this. How many people are unable to practice anymore because of a knee, an elbow, a wrist or their back, though they are still young and full of energy?

Noguchi haruchika. Taiheki
Noguchi Haruchika créateur du seitai

The Kamae depend on the Taiheki

Seitai brought us a remarkable tool, the study of corporal tendencies which Noguchi Haruchika Sensei called Taiheki. Tsuda Sensei gave a first description of them, which though brief was already a revelation when his first book The Non-Doing was published in the early seventies. Later he supplemented this teaching in the books which followed over the years, continually giving examples which enabled one to understand Taiheki better. Reading Noguchi Sensei’s texts also enabled us to deepen our knowledge of human behaviors and particularly of their relationship with the body. Comprehending the bodily movements of individuals enables to help beginners improve their posture, so they do not deform themselves. Since explaining this teaching to uninformed readers would require a whole book, all I can do is give a few indications, without going into details.
The Taiheki classification developed by Noguchi Sensei is based on human involuntary motion. It is not a typology meant to make people fit into small boxes, but rather to identify the habitual behavioural tendencies, at the same time taking into account the interpenetrations that may occur between them.

This classification includes six groups: each of the first five is related to a lumbar vertebra, the last group being more related to a global state of the body rather than to the spinal column. According to either the “Yang” or the “Yin” aspect, each group is divided into two subgroups or types, called “active” or “passive”. In order to fully understand the interest of such a study, I have chosen a few examples which seem to me more telling than other in the light of the Taiheki.

La posture taiheki

Taiheki, the revelator

According to the classification, the first group is also called the “vertical category” and it is related to the first lumbar vertebra. The energy tends to polarize to the brain.

Type 1, for instance, is extremely confident with respect to Kamae, his position is unchangeable and he is able to explain it to everybody, in a very logical way. Even with little experience he at once has an idea on the topic and sticks to it. Since his heels tend to get off the ground because of the tension he has in the cervical vertebrae, he will for example develop a theory according to which this position allows you to jump faster and further in case of attack and will refute any contradiction, until another idea emerges which will seemto him more brilliant and relevant.

Type 2 knows everything on the Kamae in almost all martial arts, the historical origins, the value of each one and its major flaws, the contribution of each master. He even knows little stories illustrating what he says, he is a mine of knowledge who doesn’t hesitate to complete it as soon as he feels a lack somewhere in his argumentation or his references.

The second group is called the “lateral category” and it is related to the second lumbar vertebra. The energy tends to polarize to the digestive system.

Type 3 is a bon vivant, when he practices martial arts he chooses his club according to the ambiance rather than to the efficiency of the art he is being taught, or to the reputation of the master. All these stories about postures, guard stances, are of little interest to him, as usual he has his own little opinion about this topic, and he likes or dislikes, which means it is convenient to him or not.

Type 4, on the other hand is always restrained in his manner, it’s hard to know what he thinks. An affable person, he seldom gives his opinion, even if a debate initiates about the value of different Kamae, he doesn’t have any real opinion, everything seems possible to him depending on the circumstances. He is rather a diplomatic, moderate kind of person.

The third category is called the “pulmonary category”or “forwards/backwards category” and it is related to the fifth lumbar vertebra. The energy tends to polarize to the respiratory system.

Type 5 doesn’t like to argue about nothing, a stance must have a practical meaning, either it is efficient, or it is not. We must check, and if it works, move ahead… Dodging is not his strong point, he prefers Omote techniques to Ura techniques. Because the bearing point of his posture tends to be the fifth lumbar vertebra, his shoulders lean forward and this incites him to act. He is easily combative but knows how to leave himself a way out if necessary.

Type 6 has too much tension in the shoulders to be able to act in a simple way. When this tension relaxes, it releases a huge amount of energy that goes off in all directions and that even he himself can’t handle. In front of him, no guard stance is possible, he is completely out of control and unpredictable at the risk of putting himself in danger.

The fourth category is called the “twisted category” and it is related to the third lumbar vertebrae. The energy tends to polarize to the urinary system. Some Taiheki may a priori seem to be a help in assuming a good guard stance, as it is the case with the “twisted category” (type 7 or 8), because in order to defend themselves they instinctively adopt a kind of posture, rather a profile position, with arched lumbar vertebrae, one foot forward etc. The posture may look ideal, to strike a pose or on a picture. But apart from the precision of the position and the bearing points, the ability to move depends obviously and maybe mainly on the state of mind. There is a huge difference, which will completely change the deal, between a type 7 twist and a type 8 one. To put it in a simple way, I would say that the type 7 wants to win whereas the type 8 doesn’t want to lose. The whole posture changes, one gets ready to pounce, the other to try dodging. Furthermore, the people of the twisted category have a permanent agitation which in this case turns out harmful. They are so restless all they are waiting for is to take action. Waiting is unbearable to them; unable to take it any longer, all of a sudden they get started, never mind if it is not the right moment.

Première image: Noguchi Haruchika Sensei 1911-1976, founder of Seitai.
Deuxième image: To find the right posture depends on the body of each Finding the right posture depends on each person’s body
Troisième image: We look at the aesthetics of the art but as a result we miss its depth.

The fifth group is called « pelvian » or « pelvis » group and it is related to the fourth lumbar vertebra. Its energy is not polarized towards a definite part of the body, it is the body as a whole which stretches and releases from the hips with one blow.

Type 9 is an example of continuity, when he practices martial arts, he tends to make it his unique reason of living, the trend of his pelvis to close gives to his koshi a lot of strength that makes his learning easier but he has got a predisposition to perfecting that may sometimes go to the point of absurdity. He cares about details and will perfect kamae to the slightest element, as long as his posture isn’t perfect according to his views he won’t be satisfied, but this unsatisfaction, far from discouraging him, is precisely what pushes him forward. Nothing can be opposed to him, his only reference is inner satisfaction. Like Osensei Morihei Ueshiba as well as other great masters, he may come to the conclusion that the natural position is the ideal kamae because it transcends all the others. But this natural position is the fruit of his many years of work and training, not a theoretical facility nor a slackening on his part.

As for type 10, he considers that a good guard stance is indispensable, that it is a guarantee of stability and that if we respected others, there would be no conflict. His open pelvis generally makes him someone very friendly, he has a great sensitivity and his intuition is fearsome. His open posture prevents him from being aggressive, he will tend to perform Ura techniques at which he is better and his guard will be more in the direction of absorbing the attack rather than repelling it.

The two last types that form the last group are, actually, states of the body called hypersensitive and apathetic.

Type 11 fails to have a precise and defined guard stand, because of his hypersensitivity, he is an unsettled person, unable to find benchmarks. His guard stand is imprecise, even confused or messy and almost every time totally ineffective. Fear tends to liquefy his legs. In his case, Aikido can be an excellent activity, provided the teacher understands his difficulties well and doesn’t rush him, so as to to lead him to a normal sensitivity.

On the contrary, type 12 is an example of rigidity, his guard stance is very physical and often lacks flexibility, he’s able to take any blow without flinching. His body may sometimes have a certain muscle laxity in the joints but this doesn’t make him less rigid.

It is according to Taiheki that one can understand the uselessness of a given posture, hence of a given kamae. Support points being different from an individual to another, the potential for mobility or simply for movement is basically different too. So it’s no use proposing an exercise, which even if it makes the apparent posture better, destroys the person in the very bases, or at least might cause physical as well as mental deformations.

Kamae and rigidification

Tsuda Sensei considered that rigidification and slackening of individuals are a part of the great flaws induced by our modern societies, but he did know that these problems existed long before, that they are inherent in human society. In his book The Path of Gods he tells an anecdote about kamae which I found once more very evocative. It is significant of the risks to which imagination may expose people, even those whose profession it was, like the samourai.

« Involuntary contraction gets stronger as imagination is filled with fear. Fear doesn’t remain in the head. It paralyzes the whole body. The wrists especially lose flexibility and the arms become insensitive. That’s what happened to two samourais fighting a duel in a story I read somewhere. They were holding their sabre with both hands and were facing each other several meters apart. At this distance, they were still safe whatever they did but their faces were already pale. They were probably soaked in cold sweat. They stayed there at the same distance for some time. Finally they got closer, one of them was lying on the ground and the other was standing. The fight was over. But the winner was staying there, unable to let go of his sabre because his fingers were clenched on the handle. The contraction was such that it was difficult for him to loosen them ».

If we want to avoid rigidification that can be caused by guard stands which don’t agree with us or imply constraints that deform us, only commonsense and personal search for balance can allow that to us. There’s no definitive solution for all problems and forever.

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Article by Régis Soavi published in Dragon Magazine (speciale Aikido n° 23) jan.2019.

(1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Non-doing, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014 (trans. from Le Non-faire, Le Courrier du Livre, 1973)

(2) Itsuo Tsuda La Voie des dieux, Le Courrier du Livre, 1982, p. 60.

Crédit photos
Régis Sirvent
Sara Rossetti

Ukemi : the flow of Ki

by Régis Soavi

The fall in our art is more than a liberation, mere consequence of an action. It is the Yin or Yang of a whole, the Tao. In practice, at the end of the technique, Tori emanates a yang energy : if he wants to avoid injuring his partner, Tori lets him absorb this yang energy and transfer it to the fall.

Aïkido is an art where there is no loser, an art dedicated to human beings, to the intuition of humans, to their adaptability, and going beyond the contradiction brought by a technique by means of the fall is nothing else than adaptability to it. Not to teach a beginner how to fall would amount to putting him in a situation of handicap from the start and risking discouragement, or to shaping a spirit of resentment, or even of revenge.

There are different attitudes among beginners, those who hurl themselves at the risk of getting hurt, and those who, because of fear, contract when about to fall and who of course take a bad fall and suffer painful consequences if you force them. My answer to this problem is softness and time…

When surprised by a noise, an act, the first reaction is to breathe in and block the breath, this is a reflex and vital functioning that prepares the answer and therefore the action. Surprise starts a series of biomechanical processes which are totally involuntary, it is already too late for reasoning. It is by breathing out that the solution to the problem will come. If there is no risk after all, or if the reaction is exaggerated and the risk minor, one drops the blocking and the breath is released in a natural way (ha, the usual sigh of relief). If there is danger, whether great or small, we are ready for action, ready to act thanks to the breath, thanks to breathing out. Problems occur when, for instance, we don’t know what to do, when the solution doesn’t arise immediately, we remain blocked in inspiration, with our lungs full of air, unable to move. It’s a disaster ! It’s approximately the same pattern that occurs when we are a beginner, our partner is performing a technique and the logical answer that will enable us to get free, and thus to fix up this conflictual problem is the Ukemi. But if one is afraid to fall, if one has not had the technical training of many forward and backward rollings done in a slow, nice and easy way, one remains with lungs blown up like a soccer ball, and if the technique is completed, one ends up on the floor, with more or less damage done.
Bouncing painfully on the tatamis like the aforesaid ball would then be the least harm. Learning to let go as soon as absolutely necessary, not falling before by caution, as this impairs Tori’s sensation and gives him a false idea of the value of his technique and often of himself. Grasping the right moment to breathe out and land softly on the tatamis without any air left in the lungs. Then as for the clapped falls, which one does when more advanced, it will be enough to breathe out faster and let oneself go so that the body finds the right receiving position by itself.

Training in the ancient way !

My own training through Judo in the early sixties, in Parisian suburbs, was very different. To us school youngsters, Judo was a way to expend our energy and canalize what otherwise ended badly, that is turned into struggles and other kinds of street fights. The training, twice a week, required two essential things : absolute respect to our teacher and learning how to fall. It was still a time when our teacher transmitted the « Japanese » Judo without weight categories. In spite of Anton Geesink’s recent victory at the Olympic Games, he would define himself as a traditionalist. Falls were one of the lessons’ foundations : rolling forward, backward, sideways, we used to spend about twenty minutes practicing that before performing the techniques, and sometimes, when he would not find us focused enough, too much scattered, he would say : « Turn your kimonos inside out so you won’t dirty them » and we would go out for a series of forward falls, in the small paved blind alley in front of the dojo. Afterwards, we were not afraid to fall anymore, well, that is, those who still wanted to continue !

The world has changed, society has evolved, would today’s parents agree to trust such a « barbarian » with their progenies, besides there are rules, protective laws, insurances.

Bob- that was his name- felt a responsibility for our training, and teaching us how to fall whatever the circumstances and on any sort of ground was part of his values and his duty was to retransmit them to us.

Bodies have changed, through food, lack of exercise, overintellectualization ; how can we pass on the message that learning physically how to fall is a necessity, provided that the results of it will be ascertained only several years later. What benefit is to be expected of it, what profitability, nowadays everything is accounted for, there’s no time to lose. It is the philosophy of Aïkido which attracts new practitioners, so that’s where our chance lies to pass on the message of this necessity.

Dualism

Aïkido, by nature and above all because of the orientation O Senseï Moriheï Ueshiba gave to it, carries a vision of the fall completely different from that of Boxing or Judo for instance, where falling is losing. To an external viewer, and that’s what falsely gives a certain character to our art, it seems that Tori is the winner when Uke falls on the tatamis. It is psychologically difficult to admit that this is not at all so. Society gives us but rarely any examples of behavior other than this Manichean dualism « Either you win or you lose ». And it is logical, at first sight, not to understand and to see only that. In order to understand the matter differently, one must practice, and practice with another conception in mind, which can only be given by the teacher. Itsuo Tsuda senseï provides an example of this pedagogy in his book The Path of Less :

« In Aïkido, when there is a flow of Ki from A, who is performing the technique, towards object B, opponent C, who is grasping A by the wrist, is thrown in the same direction. C is pulled in and joins the main current that goes from A to B.

I have often used this psychological mise-en-scene, for example, with the phrase « I’m already there ». When the opponent grabs your wrists and blocks your movement, as in the exercise of sitting Kokyu, one is inclined to think that this is a pushing exercise. If you push the opponent, it immediately produces resistance in that person. Push against push, they struggle. It becomes a sort of sitting sumo.

In the phrase « I’m already there », there is no struggle. One simply moves, pivots on one knee to make an about turn, the opponent is driven by the flow of Ki and flipped into his side. It takes very little for this exercise to become a struggle. As soon as the idea of winner and loser gets mixed up in it, exaggerated efforts are made to obtain a result, all to the detriment of overall harmony. One pushes, the other resists, bending excessively low and squeezing the wrists to prevent being pushed. Such a practice will not benefit either one. The idea is too mechanical. […] The idea of throwing provokes resistance. […] Nonetheless, to forget the opponent while knowing he’s there is not easy. The more we try to forget, the more we think about it. It’s the joy in the flow of Ki that makes me forget everything. »

Imbalance serving the purpose of balance

Balance is definitely not rigidity, that’s why falling as the consequence of a technique may perfectly enable us to rebalance ourselves. It is necessary to learn how to fall correctly, not only in order to enable Tori to be free of any fear for his partner, because Tori knows him and anticipates that his capacities will enable him to come out of this situation as well as a cat does in difficult conditions. But also and simply because thanks to the fall, we get rid of fears our own parents or grandparents have sometimes instilled in us with their ‘precautionism’ of the kind « Be careful, you’ll fall down. » invariably followed by « You’ll hurt yourself. ». This Pavlovian impregnation has often led us to rigidity and in any case to a certain apprehension as regards falling, dropping down.
The French word « chuter » (to fall) has obviously a negative connotation, while in Japanese the most commonly accepted translation of the term Ukemi is « to receive with the body », and we understand here that there is a world of difference. Once more the language shows us that the concepts, the reactions, differ profoundly, and it underlines the importance of the message we have to convey to people beginning Aïkido. Without being especially a linguist, nor even a translator of Japanese, the understanding of our art also involves the study of Eastern civilisations, their philosophies, their artistic tastes, their codes. In my opinion, extracting Aïkido from its context is not possible, despite its value of universality, we have to go and look in the direction of its roots, and therefore in that of the ancient texts. One of the basis of Aïkido can be found in ancient China, more precisely in Taoism. In an interview with G. Erard, Kono senseï reveals one of the secrets of Aïkido that seems to me essential although quite forgotten today : he had asked Morihei Ueshiba :  “O senseï, how come we don’t do what you do ?” O senseï had answered smiling : ’’I understand Yin and Yang. You don’t !’’.

To project in order to harmonize

Tori, and this is something peculiar to our art, can guide the partner’s fall so that the latter may benefit from the action. Itsuo Tsuda tells us about what he used to feel when he was projected by O Senseï : « What I can say from my own experience, is that with Mr Ueshiba, my pleasure was so great that I always wanted to ask for more. I never felt any effort on his part. It was so natural that not only did I feel no constraint, but I fell without knowing it. I have experienced the surge of great waves on the beach that topple a,d sweep one away. There is, of course, pleasure, but with Mr Ueshiba it was something else. There was serenity, greatness, Love ». There is a will, conscious or not, to harmonize the partner’s body. In this case it may be called projection. It is thus relevant to say that Aïkido is not anymore in martiality but rather in the harmonization of mankind. In order to realize this we need to leave behind us any idea of superiority, of power over another, or even any vindictive attitude, and to have the desire to give the partner a hand in order to allow him self-realization, without him needing to thank anybody. The fusion of sensibility with the partner is indispensable to achieve this, it is this same fusion which guides us, enables us to know our partner’s level and to release at the right moment if he’s a beginner, or to support his body if the moment is adequate for going beyond, to allow him to fall further, faster, or higher. In any case pleasure is present.

The involuntary

We can’t calculate the direction of the fall, its speed, its power, nor even its angle of landing. Everything happens at the level of the involuntary or the unconscious if we prefer, but which unconscious are we referring to ? It is an unconscious devoid of what cluttered it up, of what prevented it from being free, that’s why O Senseï would so often recall that Aïkido is a Misogi, practicing Aïkido is to realize this cleaning of body and spirit. When we practice this way, there is no accident in the dojo, this is the path Itsuo Tsuda senseï had adopted and the indications he was giving were leading us in this direction. This makes his School a particular School. Other paths are not only possible, but certainly match even more, or better, the expectations of many practitioners. I read many articles in magazines or blogs which take pride of violence or the ability to solve conflicts through violence and toughening up. To me, it doesn’t seem to be the way indicated by O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba, nor by the Masters I was fortunate to meet, and particularly Tsuda senseï, Noro senseï, Tamura senseï, Nocquet senseï, or others through their interviews, such as Kono senseï. The Ukemi enables us to understand better physically the principles which rule our art, which guide us beyond our small self, our small mind, to glimpse something greater than us, to be one with nature which we are part of.

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Article by Régis Soavi published in Dragon Magazine (speciale Aikido n° 22) October 2018.

Notes :

* Itsuo Tsuda The Path of less, édition Yume Edition p.180

** Guillaume Erard, Entretien avec Henry Kono : Yin et Yang, moteur de l’Aikido du fondateur, 22 avril 2008, www.guillaumeerard.fr

*** Itsuo Tsuda La Voie du dépouillement, Ed. Le Courrier du Livre p. 172

 

Seitai and daily life #4

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Yuki #3

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Is Aikido a martial art?

by Régis Soavi

This seems to be a recurring question in the dojos and one which divides practitioners, teachers, as well as commentators in more or less all schools. Since no definitive answer can be given, one turns to the story of martial arts, to social requirements, to the history of the origin of human beings, to the cognitive sciences, etc. entrusting them to provide an answer which, even if it does not solve the problem, will at least have the merit of justifying what is claimed.

Aikijutsu has become a dō

From the moment it has dropped the suffix jutsu to become a dō, Aikijutsu has acknowledged itself as an art of peace, a way of harmony on the same basis as Shodō (the way of calligraphy) or also Kadō (the way of flowers). By adopting the word that means the path, the way, has it become for this an easier path? Or in the contrary does it compel us to ask ourselves questions, to look again at our own course, to make an effort of introspection? Does an art of peace necessarily have a compliant side, is it a weak art, an art of acceptance, in which cheaters may gain a reputation at little expense?
It is certainly an art that has managed to adapt to the new realities of our time. But do we have to foster the illusion of an easy self-defence, within everyone’s reach, suiting any budget, with no need to get involved in the least bit? Can you really believe or make people believe that with one or two hours of practice a week, furthermore excluding holidays (clubs are often closed), one can become a great warrior or acquire wisdom and be able to solve any problem thanks to one’s calm, peace of mind or charisma?
Does the solution then lie in strength, muscular work and the violent arts? If a direction exists at all, it can be found in my opinion, and despite what I have just said, in Aikido.

A School without grades

Itsuo Tsuda never gave grades to any of his students and, when somebody had a question about that, he used to answer: “There is no such thing as a black belt in mental emptiness”. One might say that these words had ended all discussion. Having served as an interpreter between O Sensei Ueshiba Morihei and André Nocquet when the latter had come to Japan as a learner, Itsuo Tsuda later acted as an intermediary when French or American foreigners showed up at the Hombu Dojo to start learning Aikido. This allowed him, since he translated the students’ questions and the master’s answers, to have access to what was underlying the practice, to what made it something universal, to what made it an art beyond pure martiality. He talked to us about O Sensei’s posture, about his amazing spontaneity, about his deep gaze which seemed to pierce him to the very depths of his being. Itsuo Tsuda never tried to imitate his master whom considered inimitable. He was immediately interested in what inspired this incredible man capable of the greatest gentleness as well as of the greatest power. That is why, when he arrived in France, he tried to pass on to us what for him was the essential, the secret of Aikido, the concrete perception of ki. What he had discovered, and later summarized in the initial sentence of his first book: “Since the very day when I had the revelation of ‘ki’, of breath (I was over forty years old at the time), the desire to express the inexpressible, to communicate what cannot be communicated had kept growing in me.”*
For ten years he travelled Europe to make us Westerners, who very often had a Cartesian, dualistic frame of mind, discover that there is another dimension in life. That this dimension is not esoteric but exoteric as he liked to say.

A School with its own specificity

There is obviously a variety of motivatons leading people to start this practice. If I think of the people who practice in our School (the Itsuo Tsuda School), apart from a few of them, there are not many who came for the martial aspect. On the other hand, many of them didn’t see anything martial about it at first sight, even though at each session I show how the techniques could be effective if performed with precision, and dangerous if used in a violent way. The martial aspect arises from the posture, the breathing, the ability to concentrate, the truthfulness of the act of attacking. Dealing with a learner, it is essential to respect the partner’s level, and to practice known forms.
But the discovery one can make by practicing known forms goes far beyond that. It is about making something else grow, revealing what lies deep within individuals, freeing oneself from the underpinning influence exerted by the past and sometimes even by the future, on our gestures, on the whole of our movements, physical as well as mental. Indeed in our dojo everybody realizes that.
The session starts at 6:45am. The fact of coming to practice so early in the morning (O Sensei and Tsuda Sensei always started their own sessions at 6.30) has neither to do with an ascesis nor with a discipline. Some practicioners arrive around 6 every morning, to share some coffee or tea, and to enjoy this moment before the session (a pre-session so to speak), sometimes so rich thanks to the exchanges that we can have between us. It’s a moment of pleasure, of conversation about the practice, as well as about everyday life sometimes, and we share it with the others in an extremely concrete way and not in the virtual way that society tends to suggest us.
Of course all this may appear regressive or useless, but it avoids the aspect of easy entertainment and does not encourage clientelism, which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but in that way there is less of it and with time it evolves.This is because people change, they are transformed, or more precisely they find themselves again, they retrieve unused capacities that they sometimes thought they had lost or often, more simply, had forgotten.

Yin the feminine: understanding

There are so many women in our School that equality is not respected, men are outnumbered, by a narrow margin of course, but that has always been the case. I wouldn’t want to speak on behalf of women but what can one do? As far as I know they do not form a separate world, unknown to men.
As a matter of fact, for many men, maybe it is so!…Nevertheless I think all a man has do is to take into account his yin side, without being afraid of it, to find and understand what brings men and women closer and what separates them. Is it a matter of personal affinity, is it a research due to my experience during the events of May ’68 and to this blossoming of feminism which revealed itself once again in those days, or maybe more simply is it the fact that I have three daughters, who, by the way, practice Aikido all three of them: the result, whatever the reasons, is that I have always encouraged women to take their legitimate place in the dojos of our School. They take the same responsibilities as men and there is of course no disparity in level, neither in studying nor in teaching. It is really a pity to have to clarify things like that, but unfortunately they cannot be taken for granted in this world.
Despite everything, women scarcely take the floor, or I should even say take up the pen in martial arts magazines. It would be interesting to read articles written by women, or to devote space in “Dragon magazine special Aikido” to the female perspective on martial arts and on our art in particular. Do they have nothing to say or does the male world take up all the space? Or else maybe these sectarian disputes on the efficiency of Aikido bore them, for women seek and often find, so it seems to me, another dimension, or in any case something else, thanks to this art? Itsuo Tsuda Sensei gives us an idea of this “something else”, which is perhaps closer to O Sensei’s search, in this passage of his book The Path of less: “Do people see Mr Ueshiba as a man completely made of steel? I had quite the opposite impression. He was a serene man, capable of extraordinary concentration, but very permeable in other ways, inclined to outbursts of ringing laughter, with an inimitable sense of humour. I had the opportunity of touching his biceps. I was amazed. The tenderness of a newborn. The opposite of hardness in every way one could imagine.
This may seem odd, but his ideal Aikido was that of girls. Due to the nature of their physique, girls are unable to contract their shoulders as hard as boys can. Therefore their Aikido is more flowing and natural.”**

Yang the masculine: fighting

art martial

We are educated to competition from early childhood ; under the pretext of emulation, school tends to go in the same direction, all this to prepare us for the world of work. They teach us that the world is tough, that we absolutely need to gain our place in the sun, to learn to defend ourselves against other people, but are we so sure about that? Wouldn’t our desire in fact tend to guide us in a different direction? And what do we do to achieve this goal? Could Aikido be one of the instruments for this revolution in social values, habits, should it and above all should we do the necessary effort so that the roots of this evil corroding our modern societies may regenerate and become healthy again? In the past there have been examples of societies in which competition didn’t exist, or hardly existed in the way it does today, societies in which sexism was absent too, even though you can’t present them as ideal societies. Reading the writings on matriarchy in the Trobriand islands by the great anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowsky, discovering his analysis, may help find new leads, and perhaps even remedies to these problems of civilization which have so often been denounced.

Tao, the union: a path for the fulfillment of the human being

The path, in essence, not that I am an idealist, justifies itself and takes all its value by the fact that it normalizes the terrain of individuals. For those who follow it, it adjusts their tensions, restores balance, and it is appeasing for it allows a different relationship to life. Isn’t that what so many “civilized” people are desperately seeking and what in the end is to be found deep inside the human being?
The path is not a religion, furthermore it is what separates it from religion that makes it a space of freedom, within the dominant ideologies. According to me the way of thinking that seems closest to this is agnosticism, a philosophical current which is little known, or rather known in a superficial way, but which allows to integrate all the different schools. In Aikido there is quite a number of rituals that are kept up even though their real origin (the source O Sensei drew from) is not understood or there are sometimes other rituals that other masters found through ancient practices as Tamura Sensei himself did. Those rituals have often been associated to religion whereas the fact could be checked that it is the religions which have taken over all these ancient rituals to use them as instruments serving their own power, and way too often they are used for the domination and the enslavement of people.

A means: the respiratory practice

The first part of the session in O Sensei Ueshiba Morihei’s Aikido, far from being a warming up, consisted of movements the depth of which it is primordial to retrieve. It is neither to get an intellectual satisfaction, nor out of some fundamentalist concern and even less to gain “higher powers” that we continue them, but in order to return to the path that O Sensei had taken. Some exercises, like Funakogi undo (the so-called rower’s movement) or Tama-no-hirebori (vibration of the soul), have a very great value, and if they are practiced with the necessary attention, they can allow us to feel beyond the physical body, beyond our sensation, limited as it is, to discover something greater, much greater than ourselves. It is an unlimited nature which we take part in, in which we are immersed, which is fundamentally and inextricably linked to us, and yet which we find it so hard to reach or even sometimes to feel. This notion that I made mine is not the result of a mystical relationship with the universe, but rather of a mental and physical opening which many modern physicists have reached through a theoretical approach and are trying to verify. It is something that you can neither learn by watching Youtube videos, nor by consulting books of ancient wisdom, despite their undeniable importance. It is something you discover in a purely corporal way, in an absolutely and fully physical way, even though this dimension is expanded to an unusual extent. Little by little all the practitioners who agree to look in this direction find it. It is not related to a physical condition, nor to age and obviously not to sex or nationality.

Education

Almost all psychologists consider that the essential part of what will guide us in our adult life takes place during our childhood and more precisely in our early childhood. The good as well as the bad experiences. Therefore particular care should be taken in education to preserve the innate nature of the child as much as possible. In no way does this mean letting the child do whatever he wants, making him a king or becoming his slave; the world is there and surrounds him, so he needs reference points. But very quickly, often shortly after birth, sometimes after a few months, the baby is put in the care of persons outside the family. What happened to his parents? He no longer recognizes his mother’s voice, her smell, her movement. It is the first trauma and we are told : “He will get over it”. Sure, unfortunately it is not the last trauma, far from it. Then comes the day care center, followed by kindergarten, primary school, junior high, and finally the baccalaureate before perhaps university for at least three, four, five, six years or even more.
But what can you do ? “That’s life.” I am told. Each of these places in which the child will be spending his time in the name of education and learning is a mental prison. From basic knowledge to mass culture, when will he be respected as an individual full of the imagination that characterizes childhood? He will be taught to obey, he will learn to cheat. He will be taught to be with the others, he will learn competition. He will receive grades, this will be called emulation, and this psychological disaster will be experienced by top as well as by bottom of the class students.
In the name of what totalitarian ideology are all children and young people given an education that breeds fear of repression, submission, decommitment and disillusionment? Today’s society in wealthy countries does not propose anything really new: work and free time are only synonyms of the roman ideal of bread and circus games, the slavery of the ancient times is only turned into our modern wage employment. A somewhat improved state of slavery ? Perhaps… with spectacular brain washing, guaranteed without invoice, thanks to the advertising for products that is pushed on us, with its corollary: the hyper-consumption of goods both useless and detrimental.
The practice of Aikido for children and teenagers is the opportunity to go off the grids proposed by the world around them. It is thanks to the concentration required by the technique, a calm and quiet breathing, the non-competitive aspect, the respect for differences, that they can keep or, if necessary, retrieve their inner strength. A peaceful strength, not aggressive, but full and rich of the imagination and the desire to make the world better.

A practical philosophy, or rather, a philosophical practice

The particular character of the Itsuo Tsuda School derives from the fact that we are more interested in individuality than in the dissemination of an art or a series of techniques. It is neither about creating an ideal person, nor about guiding anyone towards something, towards a lifestyle, with a certain amount of gentleness, a certain amount of kindness or wisdom, of balancing ability or exaltation, etc. It is about awakening the human being and allowing him to live fully in the acceptance of what he is in the world surrounding him, without destroying him. This spirit of openness can do nothing other than waking up the strength pre-existing in each of us. This philosophy leads us to independence, to autonomy, but not to isolation, on the contrary: through the discovery of the Other, it brings us to the understanding of what this person is, also perhaps beyond what the person has become. This whole process of learning, or rather this reappropriation of oneself, takes time, continuity, sincerity, in order to realize more clearly the direction in which one wishes to go.

What lies beyond, what lies behind

What I am interested in today is what lies behind or more precisely what lies deep inside Aikido. When you take a train you have an objective, a destination, with Aikido it is a little bit as if the train changed objective as you moved further, as if the direction became at the same time different, and more precise. As for the objective, it pulls away despite the fact that you think you have come closer. And this is where you have to recognize that the object of our journey is the journey itself, the landscapes we discover, which become more refined and reveal themselves to us.

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Notes
* Itsuo Tsuda, The Non-doing, Yume Editions, 2013, p.9
** Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, 2014, p.157

Au cœur du déplacement, l’involontaire

Par Régis Soavi 

« Si je dois donner un but à mon Aïkido, ce sera d’apprendre à nous asseoir,  à nous lever, à avancer et à reculer. » I.Tsuda

Déplacements : la coordination, la posture

Pour se déplacer correctement il est nécessaire d’être stable, et on ne résout pas des problèmes de stabilité par l’apprentissage. La stabilité doit naître de l’équilibre, qui lui-même naît du système involontaire. L’être humain a cette particularité de se tenir debout avec comme seuls points d’appui cette toute petite surface que sont ses deux pieds. Et s’il s’agissait seulement de se tenir immobile, encore passe, mais nous nous déplaçons, et qui plus est, nous sommes capables en même temps de parler, de réfléchir, de bouger les bras dans tous les sens ainsi que la tête ou les doigts, tout cela en étant parfaitement stables. La coordination musculaire involontaire s’occupe de tout. Si nous perdons l’équilibre sans pouvoir nous rattraper à quoi que ce soit, notre corps cherche par tous les moyens à récupérer l’équilibre perdu, et souvent il y parvient grâce au mouvement de la répartition du poids d’une jambe sur l’autre, en trouvant des points d’appui extrêmement précis, que nous aurions eu du mal à trouver à l’aide de notre seul système volontaire. Tsuda Itsuo raconte une anecdote personnelle sur son apprentissage de l’Aïkido qui me semble édifiante, dans son livre La Science du particulier.*Lire la suite

Health condition according to Seitai #2

Sequel of interviews where Régis Soavi, who has been teaching and introducing people to Katsugen Undo for forty years now, gets back to basics about Seitai and Katsugen Undo. This second video tackles the notion of health according to Seitai.

Subtitles available in French, English, Italian and Spanish. To activate the subtitles, click on this icon. Then click on the icon to select the subtitle language.

Some additional information:

Seitai was developed by Haruchika Noguchi (1911-1976) in Japan. Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement) is an exercise of the extrapyramidal motor system that is part of Seitai. Itsuo Tsuda (1914-1984), who introduced Katsugen Undo in Europe in the 70s, would write about it: “The human body is endowed with a natural ability to readjust its condition […]. This ability […] is the responsibility of the extrapyramidal motor system”*.

Régis Soavi starts practising martials arts with Judo when he is twelve. He then studies Aikido, especially alongside Masters Tamura, Nocquet and Noro. He meets Tsuda Itsuo Sensei in 1973 and will follow him until his death in 1984. With the permission of the latter, Régis Soavi becomes a professional teacher and disseminates his Aïkido and Katsugen Undo throughout Europe.

*Itsuo Tsuda, One, Yume Editions (trans. Itsuo Tsuda School, 2016), p. 46

Seitai and Katsugen Undo #1

Many thing are being said and circulated on the internet about Seitai and Katsugen Undo (Regenerating Movement). In this round of interviews, Régis Soavi, who has been teaching and introducing people to Katsugen Undo for forty years now, gets back to basics to address the question “What are Seitai and Katsugen Undo?”.

Subtitles available in French, English, Italian and Spanish. To activate the subtitles, click on this icon. Then click on the icon to select the subtitle language.

Some additional information:

Seitai was developed by Haruchika Noguchi (1911-1976) in Japan. Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement) is an exercise of the extrapyramidal motor system that is part of Seitai. Itsuo Tsuda (1914-1984), who introduced Katsugen Undo in Europe in the 70s, would write about it: “The human body is endowed with a natural ability to readjust its condition […]. This ability […] is the responsibility of the extrapyramidal motor system”*.

Régis Soavi starts practising martials arts with Judo when he is twelve. He then studies Aikido, especially alongside Masters Tamura, Nocquet and Noro. He meets Tsuda Itsuo Sensei in 1973 and will follow him until his death in 1984. With the permission of the latter, Régis Soavi becomes a professional teacher and disseminates his Aïkido and Katsugen Undo throughout Europe.

*Itsuo Tsuda, One, Yume Editions (trans. Itsuo Tsuda School, 2016), p. 46

Mémoires d’un aïkidoka

Par Régis Soavi.

Parler à mes élèves des maîtres que j’ai connus fait évidemment partie de mon enseignement. Certains eurent une telle importance que je ne peux pas m’en débarrasser d’un coup du revers de la main et prétendre que je me suis fait tout seul. Les maîtres que j’ai connus ont laissé des traces qui m’ont formé et surtout ouvert à des domaines que j’ignorais, ou que parfois je soupçonnais sans pouvoir les atteindre.

Les Maîtres du passé : des maîtres de vie ?

Il m’a toujours semblé important de ne pas faire de ces maîtres des surhommes, des génies,  des dieux. J’ai toujours considéré que ces maîtres valaient beaucoup mieux que cela. Les idoles créent une illusion, nous endorment et appauvrissent les idolâtres, elles les empêchent de progresser, de prendre leur envol de leurs propres ailes. À cet égard Tsuda Senseï, lui qui est maintenant un maître du passé, écrivait dans son huitième livre La Voie des dieux :

« Maître Ueshiba a planté des poteaux indicateurs  »c’est par là », et je lui en suis très reconnaissant. Il a laissé d’excellentes carottes à manger que j’essaye d’assimiler, de digérer. Une fois digérées, ces carottes deviennent Tsuda qui est loin d’être excellent. Cela est inévitable. Mais il est nécessaire que les carottes ne restent pas carottes, sinon elles pourrissent toutes seules, sans utilité.
Il ne s’agit pas, pour moi, d’adorer, de déifier ou d’idolâtrer Maître Ueshiba. Comme tout le monde, il avait des qualités et des défauts. Il avait des capacités extraordinaires mais il avait des faiblesses, notamment vis-à-vis de ses élèves. Il se faisait avoir par eux à cause de considérations un peu trop humaines. »Lire la suite

Hello Illness #2

Continuation of Régis Soavi Interview’s  about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

To read part 1 –> https://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/bonjour-maladie/

Part #2

– How can one define Yuki ?

-Let the Ki circulate.

– How can Yuki help to activate the Movement?

– It helps, in the case where one has done the three exercises, or the exercises for Mutual Movement (activation through stimulation of the second pair of points on the head ; that is another way to activate the Movement). Yuki helps because it activates ; It’s very important for me to say that Yuki is fundamentally different from what we often hear spoken of, because when we do Yuki, we void our heads, we don’t cure anyone, we don’t look for anything. We are simply concentrated in the act. There is no intention, and that is primordial. In the statutes of the dojo, in fact, it is underlined that we practice “without a goal” ».

Lire la suite

Hello Illness #1

Interview of Régis Soavi about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

« After reading the books of Itsuo Tsuda ( 1914-1984 ), I was fascinated by his arguments, which range freely from the subject of Aïkido to that of children and the way they are born, illness, or his memories of Ueshiba Morihei and Noguchi Haruchika, and I wanted to know more. I continued to have a sensation of something beyond my understanding.

So I began to ask, what exactly is this Regenerating Movement (Katsugen Undo ) that Tsuda spoke of, a spontaneous movement of the body that seemed able to rebalance it without needing to intoxicate it with medication ; an ancient concept but still revolutionary, above all in our society. I was unable to get any satisfactory answers to my questions : those who have practiced the Regenerating Movement couldn’t describe it or explain ; the answer was always : « You should try it yourself in order to understand ; the first time, it will probably unsettle you a bit. »
So I decided to try it. In Milan, the school that refers to the teachings of Itsuo Tsuda is the « Scuola della Respirazione ». There, one can practice Aïkido and the Regenerating Movement ( in separate sessions ). But, in order to go to the sessions of Movement, one must first participate in a week-end course conducted by Régis Soavi, who has continued the work of Tsuda in Europe.

Regis Soavi en conférence

Lire la suite

The spirit of Aïkido lies in the practice

by Régis Soavi

« One often tends to consider the spirit of an art as a mental process, a path that should be consciously taken, or rules to observe. All this because in the West we live in a world of separation, division. On one side there is spirit, on the other side body, on one side the conscious, on the other the uncouscious, this is what is supposed to make us civilized beings while this separation actually generates inner conflicts. Conflicts which are strengthened by the systems of prohibition set up in order to protect society, to protect ourselves against ourselves.

regis soavi meditation
The practice of Aïkido leads us to the reunification of the human being.

Towards the reunification of human being, this is the Path we head for through practicing Aïkido. This reunification is necessary in a world where the human being is objectified, where the human being becomes both a consumer and a commodity. Without realizing the way taken, the civilized person executes life instead of living it. This society that leads us to consumption leaves little room for inner work, it leads us to search outside for what lies inside. To buy what we already have, to search for solutions to all our problems outside ourselves, as if other people had better solutions. This leads to the individual being cared for and supported by the different protection systems, which are at the same time social, ideological or health care, thus increasing supply and creating an ideal market for dream-sellers of any kind, charlatans, gurus and co.
Today I’ve heard that a new practice has just been created : « Respirology », and as usual, customers abused by the power of words will certainly flock. Should we, in the name of body and mind normalization, of people getting back into shape, change the name of our art into : « Aïkido therapy » ? The spirit of Aïkido can’t be taught.

I don’t believe it can be told that there is a specific spirit of Aïkido but rather that Aïkido must be the reflection of something much greater that we, little human beings, have difficulties to realize during our life.
The spirit of an art can’t be taught, it’s rather a transmission, but an Aïkido without a spirit, what would it be : a struggle, a fight, a kind of brawl without head nor tail. Teaching the technique without transmitting anything of the spirit is quite possible, but then, it happens to be a totally different thing. It may be self-defence or a wellness technique.
Like in any martial art, we have the Rei, the salute, which is obviously the most immediately visible expression of it, but what’s most important will be transmitted through the teacher’s posture. By posture I mean an extremely complex set of signs that students will find recognizable : of course the physical aspect, dynamics, precision, etc., but also the way of conveying a message, the attention given to each practitioner according to thousands of factors that the teacher must perceive. It is through developing intuition that one can get the greatest and finest pedagogy, and so provide the elements needed by practitioners to deepen their art, to better understand its roots.

The spirit of Aïkido can’t be learnt

The spirit of Aïkido can’t be learnt, it is discovered, it doesn’t change us, it enables us to recover our human roots, to join what’s best in human being.
« Aïkido is the art of learning in depth, the art of knowing oneself ».


The Aïkido founder’s desire was to bring human beings closer, to him the world was like a big family : « In Aïkido, training is not meant to become stronger or beat the opponent. No. It helps to get the spirit of placing oneself at the centre of the Universe and contribute to world peace, bring all human beings to form a big family. »

A hymn to joy

Osenseï used to say :  « Always practice Aïkido in a vibrant and joyful manner ». We don’t talk about joy often enough, our world incites us to sadness, to react violently to events, to criticize the systems’ failures, to see other people’s flaws, to be competitive. But all this eventually makes us grumpy, harsh and spoils our pleasure of living, quite simply.
Joy is a sensation that I consider sacred. The joy of living, of feeling fully alive in everything we do, or don’t do. Joy enables us to experience in a totally different way what many people consider as constraints, to consider them as opportunities allowing us to go further, to deepen what my master used to call respiration.

Aïkido is the art of learning in depth, the art of knowing oneself

Joy leads us little by little to inner freedom, which is the only freedom that is worth discovering, as so well told by the Taji Quan master Gu Meisheng (1926-2003) who discovered it in Chinese prisons during Mao’s era.

It enables us to get out of the conventions that different systems impose on us.
The spirit of Aïkido is to be found in nature, not in a nature external to the human being but rather in the human being as a part of nature, as nature.
« The practice of Aïkido is an act of faith, a belief in the power of non-violence. It is not a type of rigid discipline or empty asceticism. It is a path that follows the principles of nature, principles which must be applied to daily life. Aïkido must be practiced from the moment you get up to welcome the day until the moment you withdraw for the night. »
To start every morning in the dojo’s quiet with a two or three minute meditation in order to refocus, to concentrate. Then switch to the Respiratory Practice, as Tsuda senseï named it, and which Osenseï Ueshiba Moriheï used to do at every session. It is then possible to turn to the second part, the practice with a partner, the pleasure of communication through technique, the Ka Mi respiration and all of this very early in the morning while many people outside have just emerged from sleep.
When nothing is planned, when we are devoid of any thought, in these sublime moments when fusion with the partner takes place, then we are in the spirit of Aïki.
Like in Zen, it is suggested to us to live here and now, to be no different from what we are, but to look with lucidity at what we have become.

The transmission of the spirit.

In order to understand the spirit of Aïkido, one must, in my opinion, dive into the past, not only that of Japan but also, and maybe even mostly, that of ancient China. Go and search for the thinkers, philosophers, poets who enriched reflexion and gave weight to the Oriental way of thinking.
It is thanks to my master Tsuda Itsuo that I digged in this direction : not that he gave lectures on philosophy or held seminars on the matter, he who only spoke with parsimony, but on the other hand he bequeathed to us through his books a reflexion on the East and the West, bridging the gap between these two worlds which seemed antinomic.
The immense culture of this master whom I was fortunate enough to know had flabbergasted me at the time but little by little I was able to enter the understanding of his message and philosophical work which had nourished me. But this man I had admired had also left traces I could see without understanding them, other signs in the way Zen masters did : he left calligraphies. As in this art nowadays called Zenga he transmitted a teaching to us through ideograms, maxims by Zhuangzi, Laozi, Bai Juyi, or folk proverbs. Each of these calligraphies introduces us to a story, a text, an art which actually enables us to go further in the understanding of this spirit which underlies our practice.

Awakening the inner force.

« There are forces in us but they remain latent, dormant. They must be awakened, activated », wrote Nocquet senseï in an article published in 1987. To me this sentence echoes Tsuda senseï’s calligraphy « the dragon gets out of the pond where it remained asleep, talent shows through ». In both cases, these masters were refering to ki and they incite us to search in this direction.
Without the concrete sensation of ki we miss the point. How can we talk about the spirit of Aïkido without making it a sequence of rules to observe, other than by following, rediscovering the foundations of the human being. Our modern, industrial society makes life so easy for us that we move no more, we get around too easily, in the cities we just have to cover a few meters to find food instead of running, hunting or cultivating. Aïkido enables us to spend this excessive energy which otherwise would make us sick. But this is not only about the physical, motor aspect, it’s our whole body which needs to recover, normalize itself. Our mind, overloaded with useless information, also needs to rest, to find peace in the middle of the surrounding agitation.

The spirit of Aïkido is Aïkido.

The spirit of Aïkido just lies in practice and little by little it comes to be discovered. And this discovery is real enjoyment. Beginners, when becoming aware of its importance, get fully involved in this art of ours. That is often the moment when difficulties to explain what we do begin. We feel like talking about it, inviting friends to participate at least to a session. We try to make what we feel understood. Other people witness our enthusiasm but don’t come to understand what it is about. And the answers we get to our explanations, to what we try to hand down are often rather disappointing. They may vary from : « Ah yes, me too, I practiced Yoga last year during my holiday at Club Med. But I don’t have time to do a stuff like this, you see, I really don’t have time. » to « Yes, your stuff is nice but it racks brains, I practice Californo-Australian self-defence, you know, and it’s really efficient ». To move from a world to another requires to be ready, ready to just discover what you don’t know yet but have sensed. We start practicing because we have read a book, an article, and we have been shocked, we said to ourselves : « Strange guy but I like what he tells, I like this spirit, it’s close to me, to what I think ».

An art to normalize the individual.

It is the spirit of the practice, quite often, that makes us go on for many years, and seldom physical or technical achievements which anyway will be limited by aging. The only ageless thing is ki, attention, respiration as Tsuda senseï used to call it. This can be deepened without any limit and that’s why there have been great masters. If you awaken your sensibility, if you have persistence, and if you are well guided ; if the teaching is not limited to surface but enables us to dig deeper, to open by ourselves doors that we didn’t suspect, then everything is possible. When I say everything is possible I mean that everyone becomes responsible for oneself, for one’s life, for the quality of one’s life.
As Yamaoka Tesshu says : « Unity of body and mind can do everything. If a snail wants to ascend mount Fuji then it will succeed ».
No seeking for reputation, no attempting to become something but rather seeking to be, thanks to self fulfillment. Pacifying internal tensions, unifying body and mind which quite often work in the wrong way if not one against the other. Here’s the deep meaning of the research we can do in the practice of martial arts. »

Régis Soavi Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°18)  octobre 2017

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Quotations from Osenseï Moriheï Ueshiba’s collected talks, some through the book : «The Art of Peace, teachings of the Founder of Aïkido, compiled and translated by John Stevens », Shambhala.

Aikido: an evolution of the inner being

By Régis Soavi

Itsuo Tsuda in front of the tokonoma
Itsuo Tsuda in front of the tokonoma

Aikido is an instrument of my evolution, it made me evolve, I just had to follow with perseverance and obstinacy the road that was opening in front of me, that was opening inside me.  Like many other people, I came to this practice for its martial aspect. However, its beauty, as well as the aesthetic of its movements, quickly fascinated me, and this with my first teacher Maroteaux Sensei already. Then, when I saw Noro Masamichi Sensei, and Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei, I had confirmation of what I had sensed: Aikido was a wholly different thing from what I knew.

I came from the world of Judo, with the images transmitted to us, for example, that of the cherry tree branch covered with snow which all of a sudden lets the snow slide down and the branch straightens up. I had already gone beyond the ideas that had been conveyed by the beginning of the century and the fifties, of a « Japanese Jiu Jitsu which turns a small thin man into a monster of efficacy ».Lire la suite

Transcender l’espace et le temps

Par Régis Soavi.

Tous les aïkidoka ont déjà entendu parler de Ma aï car c’est une des bases de notre pratique. Mais en parler et la vivre sont malheureusement des choses très différentes. Comme elle est connue dans tous les arts martiaux, il est facile d’en trouver quantités de références.
On peut concevoir intellectuellement cette notion, on peut écrire sur elle et développer tout un discours, mais « Rien ne vaut le vécu » comme nous le répétait si souvent mon maître Tsuda Itsuo.
Je vais donc essayer d’expliquer l’inexplicable à travers des exemples ou des situations concrètes.Lire la suite

Le ki, une dimension à part entière

Par Régis Soavi

« Le Ki appartient au domaine du sentir et non à celui du savoir ». Itsuo Tsuda

Dès qu’on parle du ki on passe pour un mystique, une espèce d’hurluberlu : « Ce n’est pas scientifique, aucun instrument, aucune machine n’est capable de prouver, de démontrer que le ki existe ». Je suis parfaitement d’accord. Effectivement si on considère le ki comme une énergie surpuissante, une sorte de magie capable de projeter des personnes à distance ou de tuer seulement grâce à un cri, comme on le croyait avec le kiai, on risque de s’attendre à des miracles et d’être très vite déçu.Ki une dimension a part entiere

Le ki une philosophie orientale ?

Quelle est cette philosophie « orientale » à laquelle nous n’aurions pas accès ? Existe-t-il un domaine spécifique réservé à quelques adeptes, à quelques disciples triés sur le volet, ou bien cette connaissance est-elle à la portée de tous, et qui plus est, sans se compliquer la vie. Je veux dire en menant une vie normale, sans faire partie d’une élite ayant eu accès à des connaissances secrètes, sans avoir des pratiques spéciales, cachées et distribuées au compte gouttes, mais plus simplement en ayant un travail, des enfants etc. Quand on pratique l’Aïkido, évidemment on est dans une recherche tant philosophique que pratique, mais c’est une recherche « exotérique » et non « ésotérique ».
Itsuo Tsuda a écrit neuf livres, créant ainsi un pont entre l’Orient et l’Occident pour nous permettre de mieux comprendre l’enseignement des maîtres japonais et chinois, pour le rendre plus concret, plus simple et accessible à tous. Il n’est pas nécessaire d’être oriental pour comprendre, sentir de quoi il s’agit. Mais il est vrai que dans le monde où nous vivons il va falloir faire un petit effort. Sortir de nos habitudes de comportement, de nos références. Avoir un autre type d’attention, un autre type de concentration. Il ne s’agit pas de repartir de zéro mais de s’orienter différemment, de conduire notre attention (notre ki) d’une autre manière.
Déjà nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée, très cartésienne, selon laquelle le ki serait une seule et même chose, alors qu’il est multiple. Admettre aussi que notre corps est capable de sentir des choses que l’on aurait du mal à expliquer rationnellement, mais qui font partie de notre vie quotidienne, comme la sympathie, l’antipathie, l’empathie. Les sciences cognitives tentent à coup de neurones miroirs et autres procédés de décortiquer tout ça, mais cela n’explique pas tout, et même parfois ça complique les choses.
De toute façon à chaque situation il y a une réponse, mais on ne peux pas analyser tout ce que l’on fait à chaque instant en fonction du passé, du présent, du futur, de la politique ou de la météo. Les réponses surgissent indépendamment de la réflexion, elles surgissent spontanément de notre involontaire, que ces réponses soient bonnes ou mauvaises, l’analyse nous le dira après coup.

Le ki en Occident

L’Occident connaissait le ki par le passé, on l’appelait pneuma, spiritus, prana, ou tout simplement souffle vital. Aujourd’hui cela semble bien désuet. Le Japon a gardé un usage très simple de ce mot que l’on peut retrouver dans une multitude d’expressions, que je cite plus loin, en reprenant un passage d’un livre de mon Maître.
Mais dans l’Aïkido qu’est-ce que le ki ?
Si une École peut et doit parler du ki, c’est bien l’École Itsuo Tsuda, et cela évidemment sans prétendre à l’exclusivité, mais simplement peut-être parce que mon Maître avait basé tout son enseignement sur le ki, qu’il avait traduit par respiration. C’est pourquoi il parlait d’une « École de la respiration » : « Par le mot respiration, je ne parle pas d’une simple opération bio-chimique de combinaison oxygène-hémoglobine. La respiration, c’est à la fois vitalité, action, amour, esprit de communion, intuition, prémonition, mouvement. »*
L’Aïkido n’est pas un art de combat, ni même de self défense. Ce que j’ai découvert avec mon Maître, c’est l’importance de la coordination de la respiration avec mon partenaire, comme moyen de réaliser la fusion de sensibilité quelle que soit la situation. Itsuo Tsuda nous expliquait à travers ses textes ce que lui avait transmis son Maître Morihei Ueshiba. Pour nous le transmettre de manière plus concrète, pendant ce qu’il appelait « la première partie » – la pratique solitaire, qu’on appellerait aujourd’hui Taizo – au moment de l’inspiration, il prononçait KA, et à l’expiration MI. Certaines fois il nous expliquait : « KA est le radical de Feu Kasai en japonais, et MI le radical de l’Eau Mizu ». L’alternance de l’inspire et de l’expire, leur union, crée Kami que l’on peut traduire par le divin.  « Mais attention, nous disait-il, il ne s’agit pas du dieu des chrétiens ni même de celui d’une quelconque religion mais, si vous avez besoin de références, on peut dire que c’est dieu l’univers, dieu la nature, ou tout simplement la vie ».
Il y avait au dojo un dessin exécuté à l’encre de chine et tracé par Maître Ueshiba comportant quatorze formes très simples que nous appelions Futomani car O Senseï avait dit qu’il lui avait été dicté par Ame-no-Minaka-nushi : le Centre céleste. Itsuo Tsuda en donne l’explication dans son livre Le dialogue du silence*. Grâce à cela j’ai mieux compris les directions que prenait le ki lorsqu’il avait une forme.

Dessin exécuté par Maître Ueshiba
Dessin exécuté par Maître Ueshiba

Renouer, retrouver les liens avec ce qui préexiste au plus profond de nous

Le fondateur parlait de Haku no budo et de Kon no budo : kon étant l’âme essentielle qui ne doit pas être étouffée, mais disait-il, on ne doit pas négliger l’âme haku qui assure l’unité de l’être physique.
Une fois encore on parle de l’unité.
Si notre pratique s’intitule Aï ki do : « voie d’unification du ki », c’est bien que ce mot ki a un sens.
La pratique concrète nous permettra de le comprendre, mieux que les longs discours. Et pourtant il faut tenter d’expliquer, tenter de faire passer ce message si important, car sans cela notre art risque fort de devenir un combat « Que le plus fort, le plus habile ou encore le plus malin gagne », ou bien une danse ésotérique, mystique, élitiste, voire sectaire.
Et pourtant nous connaissons bien le ki, nous le sentons à distance. Par exemple quand on se promène dans une petite rue la nuit, et que tout à coup on sent une présence, on sent un regard dans notre dos et pourtant il n’y a personne ! Quant soudain on remarque, sur un toit avoisinant, un chat qui nous regarde. Un chat tout simplement, ou un rideau qui se rabat subrepticement. Le regard est porteur d’un ki très fort que tout le monde peut sentir, même de dos.

Une des pratiques de Seitai do appelée Yuki consiste à poser les mains sur le dos d’un partenaire et à faire circuler le ki. Il ne s’agit aucunement de faire l’imposition des mains pour guérir quelqu’un qui à priori n’est pas malade, mais d’accepter de visualiser la circulation du ki, cette fois comme un fluide, comme de l’eau qui coule. Au début on ne sent rien ou peu de chose de la part de l’un comme de l’autre. Mais là encore, petit à petit on découvre le monde de la sensation. On peut dire que c’est une dimension à part entière dans la plus grande simplicité. C’est simple, c’est gratuit, ce n’est lié à aucune religion, on peut le faire à tout âge et quant on commence à sentir cette circulation du ki, la pratique de l’Aïkido devient tellement plus facile. L’exercice de kokyu ho par exemple, ne peux pas se faire sans le kokyu, donc sans le ki, à moins de devenir un exercice de force musculaire, une façon de vaincre un adversaire.
Je n’aurais jamais pu découvrir l’Aïkido que mon Maître enseignait si je n’avais pas volontairement et avec opiniâtreté cherché dans cette direction. Dans la recherche sensitive, à travers tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne pour comprendre, sentir, et étendre cette compréhension sans jamais abandonner.

Ambiance

Le ki est aussi ambiance, par conséquent, pour pratiquer il y a besoin d’un lieu qui permette la circulation du ki entre les personnes. Ce lieu, le dojo, doit à mon avis, chaque fois que cela est possible, être « dédié » à une pratique, une École. Itsuo Tsuda considérait que en entrant dans le dojo on se sacralisait, et c’est pourquoi on saluait en montant sur les tatamis. Ce n’est pas un lieu triste où les gens « doivent garder un visage renfrogné et constipé. Au contraire, il faut y maintenir l’esprit de paix, de communion et de joie. »* L’ambiance du dojo n’a rien à voir avec celle d’un club ou avec celle d’une salle multi-sports qu’on loue quelques heures par semaine et qui est utilisée, pour cause de rentabilité, par différents groupes n’ayant rien à voir entre eux. Le genre de local, de gymnase où l’on passe, on s’entraîne, puis une douche et ciao ; au mieux une bière au bistrot du coin histoire d’échanger un peu les uns avec les autres. Quand on connaît le ki, quand on commence à le sentir et surtout quand on veut découvrir ce qui se cache derrière ce mot, un lieu comme le dojo c’est vraiment tout autre chose. Imaginez un endroit calme dans un petit passage parisien au fond du vingtième arrondissement. Vous traversez un petit jardin et au premier étage d’un bâtiment très simple s’ouvre « Le Dojo ».

Dojo
Dojo

Vous y venez tous les jours si vous voulez, car chaque matin il y a une séance à sept heure moins le quart : vous êtes chez vous. Vous avez votre kimono sur un cintre dans les vestiaires, la séance dure à peu près une heure, puis vous prenez un petit déjeuner avec vos partenaires dans l’espace attenant, ou vous partez précipitamment au travail. Le samedi et le dimanche grasse matinée, séances à huit heure.
Expliquer le ki est une chose difficile c’est pourquoi seule l’expérience nous le fait découvrir. Et pour cela il faut y mettre les conditions qui permettent cette découverte. Le dojo fait partie des éléments qui facilitent grandement la recherche dans cette direction. Renouer des circuits, mais aussi dénouer ces liens qui nous enserrent et obscurcissent notre vision du monde

Petit à petit le travail va se faire, les nœuds vont se dénouer, et si nous acceptons qu’ils se dénouent on peut dire que le ki recommence à circuler plus librement. Il circule à ce moment là en tant qu’énergie vitale, il est possible de le sentir, de le visualiser, de le rendre en quelque sorte conscient. Car des tensions inutiles, qui n’arrivent pas à se libérer, rigidifient notre corps. Pour rendre la chose la plus claire possible, on pourrait dire que c’est à peu près comme si un tuyau d’arrosage était bouché. Il risque d’éclater en amont. La rigidification du corps oblige celui-ci à réagir pour sa propre survie. Il se produit alors des réactions inconscientes qui agissent au niveau du système involontaire. Pour éviter ces blocages, surviennent de micro fuites de cette énergie vitale et même parfois des fuites plus importantes, par exemple dans les bras, au niveau du koshi et principalement aux articulations. La conséquence immédiate est que les personnes n’arrivent plus à pratiquer avec fluidité et c’est la force qui compense le manque, on raidit des parties du corps qui se mettent à réagir comme autant de pansements ou de plâtres pour empêcher ces déperditions de la force vitale. C’est pourquoi il est si important de travailler sur le fait de sentir le ki, de le faire circuler. Au début c’est la visualisation qui nous le permet, mais au fur et à mesure qu’on approfondit la respiration (la sensation, la sensibilité au ki), si on reste concentré sur une pratique souple, si on se vide l’esprit, on peut découvrir, voir, sentir la direction du ki, sa circulation. Cette connaissance nous permet de l’utiliser et la pratique de l’Aïkido devient facile. On peut commencer à pratiquer la non résistance : Le non faire.

La sensibilité naturelle des femmes au ki

Les femmes ont généralement plus de sensibilité par rapport au ki ou, plus exactement, elles la conservent plus, si elles ne se déforment pas trop pour se défendre dans ce monde d’hommes où tout est régi suivant les critères et les besoins de la masculinité, de l’image de la femme qui est transmise et de l’économie. Leur sensibilité vient du besoin de conserver à leur corps la souplesse pour pouvoir accoucher de façon naturelle et s’occuper des nouveaux-nés. C’est une souplesse qui ne s’acquière pas dans les salles de sport, de musculation ou de fitness, c’est plutôt une tendresse, une douceur qui saura au besoin être ferme et sans aucune mollesse quand ce sera nécessaire. Le nouveau-né a besoin de toute notre attention mais il ne parle pas encore. Il ne peut pas dire : « j’ai faim, j’ai soif ou je suis fatigué », ou encore « maman tu est trop nerveuse, calme toi, et dis à papa de parler moins fort, cela me fait peur ».2011-07-20 at 08-21-28

Grâce à leur sensibilité naturelle, elles sentent les besoins de l’enfant, elles ont l’intuition de ce qu’il faut faire et le ki passe entre la mère et l’enfant. Quant le père, toujours très rationnel, ne comprend pas, la mère sent et du coup elle sait. Même si elle n’est pas mère, même si elle est une jeune femme sans aucune expérience, c’est le corps qui réagit, c’est lui qui a cette sensibilité naturelle au ki et c’est pourquoi, je pense, il y a tant de femmes dans notre École. C’est parce que le ki est au centre de notre pratique, que rien ne saurait se faire sans lui. Nous mettons notre sensibilité dans cette direction et ainsi on peut voir le monde et les personnes non plus seulement au niveau des apparences mais bien plus loin, dans leur profondeur, ce qu’il y a derrière la forme, ce qui la structure, ou ce qui la conduit.

Voici quelques exemples que donnait Itsuo Tsuda, extraits du livre Le Non-faire :

« La chose la plus difficile à comprendre dans la langue japonaise, c’est le mot « ki ».  En effet, si les Japonais l’utilisent des centaines et des centaines de fois par jour, sans y réfléchir, il est pratiquement, et je dirais aussi théoriquement, impossible d’en trouver un équivalent dans les langues européennes.
Si le mot, pris isolément, reste intraduisible en français, il n’est toutefois pas impossible de traduire les expressions courantes dans lesquelles il se trouve incorporé. Je vais citer quelques exemples :
ki ga chiisai : mot à mot, son ki est petit. Il se fait trop de souci pour rien.
ki ga ôkii : son ki est grand. Il ne se fait pas de souci pour des petites choses.
… ki ga shinai : je n’ai pas de ki pour… Je n’en ai pas envie. Ou, cela me dépasse.
… ki ga suru : il fait du ki pour… J’ai le flair, le pressentiment, je sens intuitivement…
waru-gi wa nai : il n’a pas de mauvais ki, il n’est pas méchant, n’a pas de mauvaises intentions.
ki-mochi ga ii : l’état du ki est bon ; je me sens bien.
ki ni naru : cela attire mon ki, je n’arrive pas à dégager mon esprit de cette idée. Quelque chose de bizarre, d’anormal arrête mon attention, malgré moi.
ki ga au : notre ki coïncide, nous sommes sur la même longueur d’ondes.
ki o komeru : concentrer le ki. Pour la question de concentration, je n’ai vu nulle part ailleurs d’exemple aussi hautement porté qu’au Japon.
ki-mochi no mondai : c’est conditionné par l’état du ki. Ce n’est pas l’objet, le résultat tangible, mais c’est le geste, c’est l’intention qui compte.
On pourrait encore citer plusieurs centaines d’expressions avec le mot ki.
Si les Japonais sont pour la plupart incapables de dire ce qu’est le ki, il n’empêche qu’ils savent instinctivement à quel moment il faut le dire ou ne pas le dire. ».

Itsuo Tsuda avait commencé l’Aïkido à l’âge de quarante cinq ans, il n’avait rien d’un sportif mais sa seule présence transformait toute l’ambiance du dojo. J’aimerais vous raconter une anecdote concernant un des exercices que je faisais dans les années soixante-dix, alors que mon Maître avait déjà plus de soixante ans. Lorsque je passais le portail de la cour au fond de laquelle se trouvait le dojo, je m’arrêtais un instant, je fermais les yeux et cherchais à sentir si « il » était là. Les premiers temps cela ne marchait pas trop, c’était des coups au hasard, des coups de chance. Petit à petit j’ai compris : je ne devais pas chercher à savoir. Alors j’ai commencé à me « vider », à cesser de penser et c’est venu. Je savais chaque matin si il était arrivé ou non. Je sentais sa présence dès que je m’approchais du dojo.
A partir de ce moment quelque chose s’est transformé en moi. J’avais enfin compris un petit bout de son enseignement, et surtout, j’avais vérifié que le ki ne faisait pas partie de l’irrationnel, que c’était concret, et que sa perception était accessible à tous puisqu’elle m’avait été accessible.

Article de Régis Soavi sur le thème du ki ( ) publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°15)  janvier 2017.

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Notes :
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 25.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 14.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le dialogue du silence – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1979, p. 89 et 90.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Cœur de ciel pur – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 2014, p. 117.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 23 et 24.

La peur

Par Régis Soavi

Tout a commencé un après-midi ordinaire dans ma cité du Blanc-Mesnil dans le 93.
Une altercation comme il y en avait souvent, mais ce jour là, je me suis retrouvé sous un garçon qui, me tapant la tête contre le trottoir me disait « Je vais te tuer, je vais te tuer ». Je ne sais même plus comment cela a fini. Mais la semaine suivante j’étais inscrit au cour de Judo Jiu-jitsu Self-défense de la ville voisine du Bourget.
J’avais douze ans et dans ma tête il y avait ce leitmotiv : « Plus jamais ça, plus jamais ça ».

Deux ans plus tard lors de la fête de fin d’année du collège, la section de Judo devait faire une démonstration. Tout s’était très bien passé, quand tout à coup, surgit des premiers rangs un adolescent portant un blouson de cuir noir qui invective notre groupe : « C’est bidon votre truc, vous êtes des nuls… » Avant que quiconque ne réagisse, il saute sur l’estrade, sort un couteau à cran d’arrêt et dans un magnifique tsuki tente de me « planter » : j’esquive et exécute une technique (je crois que c’était une sorte de o soto gary). Émotion de l’assistance, cris ! Puis salut entre mon agresseur et moi. Conséquence : sermon du directeur de l’établissement qui nous fit jurer, à mon ami Jean Michel (l’agresseur) et à moi, de ne jamais recommencer ce genre de chose, car il avait faillit avoir une crise cardiaque.
En plus des cours de Karaté pour lui et de Judo pour moi, nous nous entraînions le plus souvent possible et pendant des heures dans mon « Dojo personnel ».
Depuis que nous avions emménagé dans un pavillon à l’entrée d’une petite cité où ma mère avait trouvé un emploi de concierge, j’avais aménagé le sous-sol en Dojo, avec en guise de tatami des palettes recouvertes de mousse récupérée, et c’était là que nous avions préparé notre coup d’éclat, lui le karatéka et moi le judoka.
À l’époque, je parle du début des années soixante, nous n’avions aucune connaissance des armes telles que katana, bokken, jo ou autres. Mis à part le Fleuret, qui était un sport, et le bâton de Robin des Bois, grâce à Errol Flynn, nous ne connaissions dans le quotidien que le couteau.

Quand on pratique l’Aïkido il y a toujours la possibilité de se rêver quelqu’un d’autre, le cinéma et les effets spéciaux se prêtent bien à faire rêver les adolescents comme les jeunes adultes des nouvelles générations. Dans nos pays industrialisés la mort est devenue virtuelle et souvent aseptisée, le mode spectaculaire l’a mise à distance. Les écrans que chacun possède aujourd’hui ont permis cette distanciation tant psychologique que physique.
Le travail que l’on peut faire avec un bokken, un jo ou même un iaï a une énorme importance du point de vue physique et psychologique. Mais je n’ai jamais vu chez mes élèves de réaction telle qu’on peut en voir avec un tanto.
Tant qu’il s’agit du tanto en bois cela va encore, mais dès que l’on propose le tanto en métal, même si la lame n’est pas aiguisée, il y a dans les yeux des pratiquants une lueur que l’on peut reconnaître. Avec toutes sortes de nuances, de l’effroi à la panique en passant par la stupéfaction, en tout cas la peur, car il faut bien l’appeler par son nom, est là. Quelles que soient les dénégations, les justifications.
Nous sommes tellement loin souvent de ce genre de réalité.

Regardez sous vos pieds

La calligraphie de notre stage d’été 2016 était Regardez sous vos pieds, calligraphie réalisée par mon maître Itsuo Tsuda. Cette phrase, qui était à l’entrée des monastères Zen, résonne de manière évidente comme un Koan. C’est une de ces nombreuses calligraphies qu’il a laissées et qui nous intriguent. Message subliminal ? Message pour la postérité.
Pendant notre stage, Regardez sous vos pieds c’était : « Vois et sens la réalité. Sors du rêve, de l’illusion, deviens un être humain véritable ».
Le tanto participe d’un principe de réalité. Au delà de la dextérité que les entraînements peuvent apporter, ce qui est déterminant et que l’on doit considérer c’est justement la peur : la peur de la blessure, ce qui est déjà un moindre mal, et la peur de la mort.
Dans un premier temps, il y a besoin que les personnes qui, tour à tour, seront uke apprennent à utiliser le tanto : bien que les techniques de frappe ou de coupe soient plutôt simples, voire rudimentaires, elles demandent un apprentissage que je qualifierais de rigoureux. La manière de tenir l’arme au creux de la main et les appuis que l’on va découvrir pour une bonne tenue doivent être enseignés avec attention et doivent permettre la compréhension, car si la tenue du tanto est mauvaise, elle peut se révéler plus dangereuse pour uke lui-même que pour tori. Pour ce qui est de notre École, rares sont ceux qui, quand ils arrivent, ont déjà tenu une arme de ce type entre leurs mains.
Le simple fait du sens de la lame, sa tenue dans la main, les angles de coupe. C’est tout cela qui conditionne une bonne attaque.
Bien souvent les personnes répugnent à utiliser le tanto en métal, trop proche de la réalité. Ils se visualisent déjà en barbares, les mains dégoulinant du sang du partenaire !
J’ai beau expliquer et prendre les précautions nécessaires, ces visions les empêchent d’avoir une vraie attaque et les bloquent. Ils restent là, attendant je ne sais quoi, ou ils attaquent mollement et, bien que les attaques soient conventionnelles, ils préviennent, « téléphonent », le moment de leur attaque. Mais si tout, absolument tout est prévu, il ne reste plus rien de vivant. Si on protège et surprotège, la vie disparaît. La respiration se raccourcit, devient haletante, inconsistante.

tanto regis soavi
L’instinct ne peut pas se développer. Il ne reste qu’un entraînement répétitif et ennuyeux.
Et là je doit le dire : il ne s’agit pas seulement de parler des arts martiaux, car toutes les attaques sont prévues et c’est normal, c’est nécessaire pour acquérir la bonne posture. Il est même important de travailler lentement pendant un certain temps pour bien sentir les mouvements, comme lorsqu’on travaille un kata de Jiu jitsu par exemple. Mais à partir d’un certain niveau le moment et l’intensité, eux, doivent rester dans l’aléatoire et on doit donner le maximum. Le mouvement libre – sorte de randori à la fin de chaque séance – est le moment où l’on peut justement, dans le respect du niveau de chacun, travailler sur ses réactions.

tanto
Ce qui fait la différence avec les grands Maîtres du passé n’est pas leur technique exceptionnelle mais leur présence, la qualité de leur présence. Ce qui fait la différence encore aujourd’hui c’est la qualité de l’être et non la quantité de technique.
Quand on pratique avec un sabre ou un bâton, on peut se réfugier dans l’art, le style, la beauté du geste, les règles, l’étiquette. Avec le tanto c’est plus difficile car c’est plus proche de notre réalité. Le couteau, le poignard, sont malheureusement des armes trop souvent utilisées encore aujourd’hui. L’agression fait peur, se transformer en agresseur pour quelques minutes nous impressionne. Cette contrainte est extrêmement désagréable et même parfois presque impossible à surmonter pour certaines personnes. Mon travail consiste à les aider, pour sortir de cet immobilisme, de ce blocage dans leur corps, à aller jusqu’au bout de cette peur, à la révéler, à montrer que c’est elle qui nous empêche de vivre pleinement. Le tanto est un révélateur de ce qui se passe à l’intérieur de nous. Et là, deux grandes orientations sont possibles : la voie du renforcement ou la voie du dépouillement.
Dans le premier cas, le combat contre la peur avec son corollaire, le combat contre soi-même qui est une illusion, car au bout du compte qui est le perdant ? C’est une voie d’insensibilisation, de raidissement du corps, de durcissement musculaire et sa conséquence : le risque d’une atrophie de notre humanité.
Ou bien le dépassement par l’acceptation de cette peur pour ce qu’elle est et par le fait de favoriser l’écoulement du ki qui la rendait incapacitante. La peur, qui au départ est une sensation naturelle, découle de notre instinct. Elle n’est que le blocage de notre énergie vitale lorsque celle-ci ne trouve pas d’issue. Elle se transforme en stimulation, en attention, en réalisation et même en création lorsqu’elle trouve le chemin juste.
C’est pour cela que notre École propose le Mouvement régénérateur (une des pratiques du Seïtaï enseigné par Haruchika Noguchi senseï) comme possibilité de normaliser le terrain par une activation du système moteur extra-pyramidal. Cette normalisation du corps passe par le développement de notre système involontaire qui, au lieu d’un fonctionnement réflexe obtenu par des heures et des heures d’entraînement, retrouve ses capacités originelles, sa vivacité et son intuition. Alors petit à petit on découvrira que bon nombre de nos peurs, de nos incapacités à vivre pleinement, à réagir avec souplesse et rapidité face aux difficultés, et plus encore face à l’agression physique ou verbale, que nos lenteurs, sont dues au manque de réaction de notre corps. Aux blocages de notre énergie dans un physique trop lourd ou à une « mentalisation » trop rapide et inopérante. L’imaginaire, lorsqu’il est tourné vers le négatif et qu’il se développe de façon excessive, est souvent à l’origine de bon nombre de difficultés dans la vie quotidienne et se révèle dramatiquement bloquant dans des circonstances exceptionnelles.

Flexibilité extérieure et fermeté intérieure

Itsuo Tsuda donne un exemple frappant, extrait de la vie du samouraï Kôzumi Isenokami tel que rapporté dans le célèbre film Les sept samouraïs d’Akira Kurosawa : « Un assassin s’est réfugié dans le grenier d’une maison privée, en prenant un enfant en otage avec lui. Alerté par les habitants, Kôzumi, alors de passage dans le village, demande à un moine bouddhiste de lui prêter sa robe noire et se déguise lui-même en moine, en se rasant la tête. Il apporte deux boulettes de riz, en donne une à l’enfant et l’autre à l’assassin pour le calmer. A l’instant ou ce dernier tend la main vers la boulette, il l’attrape et le fait prisonnier.
S’il avait agi en guerrier, le bandit aurait tué l’enfant. S’il avait été simplement un moine, il n’aurait eu d’autre moyen que de supplier le bandit qui aurait refusé de l’écouter.
Kôzumi était réputé être un homme très réservé et humble et n’avait point l’arrogance fréquente chez les guerriers. On a conservé de lui une calligraphie datée de 1565, probablement à l’âge de 58 ans, qui, dit-on, dénote une maturité, une souplesse et une sérénité extraordinaires. C’est cette flexibilité qui lui a permis d’accomplir cette transformation instantanée guerrier-bonze-guerrier.
Quand je pense à cette personnalité à la flexibilité extérieure et à la fermeté intérieure, comparé à ce que nous sommes, nous les civilisés d’aujourd’hui, avec la raideur extérieure et la fragilité intérieure, je crois rêver »*
tanto regis soavi

La voie du Seitai

Si j’insiste sur la voie du Seïtaï, qui est malheureusement si méconnue en Europe, ou parfois si dévoyée, c’est qu’elle me semble être réellement le chemin d’accompagnement que recherchent un très grand nombre de pratiquants d’arts martiaux.
C’est une voie individuelle que l’on peut suivre sans jamais pratiquer rien d’autre, car c’est une voie à part entière. Mais quand on pratique l’Aïkido je pense qu’il serait sain de pratiquer le Mouvement régénérateur quelque soit le niveau que l’on a atteint et même, ou surtout, dès le début. Car par exemple, cela pourrait éviter nombres de désagréments, de petits accidents, préparer le moment où étant moins jeune, pour continuer à pratiquer, il faudra compter sur d’autres ressources que la force, la vitesse d’exécution ou la renommée, etc.

Le Mouvement régénérateur est justement ce que Germain Chamot appelle « une pratique de santé personnelle et régulière », dans son dernier article**.  C’est une voie qui ne nécessite ni financement ni qualité physique, mais simplement de la continuité et une ouverture d’esprit. Je ne peux qu’être d’accord avec ses réflexions sur les difficultés dans notre société de proposer une pratique régulière, sur le long terme, comme sur le coût que représenterait une pratique hebdomadaire avec un Shiatsuki, etc. Le thérapeute prenant en charge le patient de manière individuelle, il a aussi une obligation de résultat, et le fait d’être consulté ponctuellement pour des problèmes qu’il est sensé régler le plus vite possible lui rend la chose difficile.

Le Seïtaï n’est pas une thérapie mais une orientation philosophique, reconnue par le Ministère de l’Éducation japonais.
Noguchi senseï désirait que se développe la pratique du Mouvement régénérateur (Katsugen undo en japonais). Son action visait à « seïtaïser » (normaliser) cent millions de Japonnais et c’est pour cette raison qu’il a soutenu Itsuo Tsuda senseï dans son désir de créer des groupes de Mouvement régénérateur (Katsugen kaï) au Japon d’abord, puis en Europe. C’est cela et l’immense travail de ce dernier, multipliant les stages et les conférences en France, en Suisse, en Espagne, etc., qui a fait connaître le Mouvement régénérateur et permis le développement de cette approche si précieuse de la santé.
Son travail se continue aujourd’hui.

Article de Régis Soavi sur le thème du tanto (couteau) en aïkido, publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°14)  octobre 2016.

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Notes
* Itsuo TSUDA « La Voie des Dieux » page 66. Le Courrier du Livre 1982.
** « Aïkijo : une histoire de contexte » (dernier paragraphe, sur le Shiatsu), Dragon Magazine Spécial Aïkido n°13, p.12-14.

Does Aikijo exist?

By Régis Soavi

Certainly the Jo, the stick, has always been used in Aïkido. But does it really belong to our Art? Its teaching has always been particular and often even separated from the regular courses. Many of us have tried, through other schools of Jujitsu, to find some forms, some kata, some “secret thrusts”. Some have taken an interest in Kobudo. Yet the art of the Jo in Aïkido has its own specificities, its rules.
Personally, what has always fascinated me, is more the extreme accuracy that can be obtained by following a certain type of training. Instead of working on power, I found it more profitable to concentrate on motion, movements and above all precision.

Training to precision

regis-soaviI was a young instructor when I started to train more regularly with the stick. Back then, I tied a soda cap at the extremity of a rope that I hung from the ceiling. My training consisted in making tsuki on the soda cap and each time that it moved to immobilize it again. Then I changed heights. Later I worked on the yokomen and the hits from below, always trying to be precise and without increasing the speed. I worked slowly looking for the right angle, using the displacements and little by little I increased the speed of the execution. Finally I started to hit by using the movement of the cap that flied around to the left, the right, with sudden leaps that were sometimes odd, or even scary if it had been the Jo or the Bokken of an adversary. I could go around that axle that I hung from the centre of the small dojo that used to be in the backyard of number 34 in rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève in Paris. I still remember it with emotion because it was thanks to Master Henry Plée that I could do this type of work. Indeed, he had allowed and even supported me in this direction (an accomplished Budoka, he loved that we trained to the very best of our ability). After several months of this type of training, I moved on to the work on makiwara, but I have to admit, without insisting too much because I found it tedious. Instead I loved the hits in all directions, in the “shadow boxing” style.

In this exercise I found the difficulties of the work with the soda cap, plus the power that I had to control, the circular movements, the speed and above all the visualization. That work of visualization that I already glimpsed in the teaching of my master Itsuo Tsuda. It is also thanks to this that I’ve discovered the importance of having your own stick, I mean a personal working instrument. I am one of those teachers who believe that the Jo must not be a manufactured product of a predetermined length, thickness, or weight. The Jo has to be in proportion, with no exaggeration, otherwise we’ll be dealing with a Bo, to the person who uses it, his or her height and musculature: as there are enormous differences, it seems to me a mistake not to take this into account, but in any case it is the way the Jo is used that remains the most important point.

The pedagogy

As far as I’m concerned, I now use the stick more as a pedagogical tool. As always it is about retrieving and understanding the ancient forms, of course, but above all about channelling the released energy, feeling it circulate and flow along this piece of wood.

Master Tsuda used to tell us: “The Jo has three parts, the two ends and a centre, unlike the Bo that numbers four parts due to the way one seizes it, with both hands at an equal distance from the extremities”. Doing tsuki the technical aspects of the strokes vary, whether one uses it in the ancient form suited to the spear, or as a Jo, that is something much shorter, holding it with both hands in the same direction or one opposite to the other. All this didn’t matter to him: what was important was the transmission of ki and the act of non resistance.

The Jo was only there to enable us to discover the Non-doing, to deepen our breathing.

Then the stick (I suggest to call it that way) is used as if it was an empty tube that gets filled with ki, that has a certain autonomy, that becomes alive again.

The stick exacerbates distances. It forces us to have another relationship with the distance, to feel the axes as well as the changes of direction, of orientation.

Some people have a particular affinity with the Jo, others prefer the Bokken. Even if it is part of my teaching, I give them the time to find out whether it makes sense to them, whether it helps them go deeper in their practice.

It is one of the means I sometimes use to make people understand how the strengths involved in our practice circulate: it is precisely with the stick that I can show this.

I ask uke to grab the stick very strongly and tori has to find the axis, the direction by the mere movement of his body, of his koshi, not of his muscles or arms, to slide the force applied, so that when tori moves, it creates such an imbalance for uke, that he accepts to fall and drops like a ripe fruit falling from the tree.exterieur

Practicing outdoors

There is a moment in which it is particularly pleasant to practice the stick, and this is when you are outside, in the open air.

And the time for this is the summer workshops, which we have organized for almost thirty years at Mas d’Azil, in Ariège. There we are lucky enough to be able to change an old gym, practically unused, into a wonderful dojo, in the course of several pleasant working days. Since it’s next to a soccer field, we can go outside to practice weapons.

I know that practitioners are then very happy to practice outside the tatami mats.The space is so much bigger that we can rediscover the dimensions that the old arts required.

After having been confined to an enclosed space, the whole point of these open air sessions is to expand physically: no more ceiling, no more walls, no more limits. It is the moment when everyone can experience different dimensions, the ideal moment to try, in this space, to feel further.

Practicing outside, whilst we are used to the uniformity of the tatami mats, is a constraint for the entire body: the ground is no longer that flat, there are some holes, some bumps, all movements, taisabaki, and obviously the falls or the immobilizations become more difficult.The speed of the attacks is often reduced due to the unusual conditions. But in turn, when we practice on the tatami mats again, everything becomes easier: one has gained skill, speed, strength in the legs, and balance that one didn’t have before.

We then take the opportunity to practice with many people, three, four, six, or even up to eight attackers (one tori and seven ukes) who, in the respect of our Art and with no competitive spirit, try to reach out and put the one in the center in danger. No need to pretend it’s a movie: we are neither samurai nor secret agents whom nothing can stop. It’s about moving more and better than we usually do, feeling the movement of our sphere, the gaps in it and the risks there are of having an impact in those places.

The importance is not given to a perfect technical skill, whether in defense or in attack, but much more to the sensation of the other people’s movement, to distance, to the energy that one can throw.

Such a wide space allows circumferences of about eight or ten meters, sometimes. In circular movements Tori’s gaze, with its intensity and precise direction, relays the power and speed of the stick. This alone is sometimes enough to create the right conditions for a reply, a correct move.

I don’t know if I am well understood: it is a game in which all participants, from the very beginner to the most experienced, have their own role depending on their level. The six or eight attackers will moderate the power and speed of the attacks (tsuki, shomen, yokomen) according to this.

Each of them seeks the right position so as to find the weak point, the speed of approach, the right angle.plusieurs-attaquants

The attacks are as much as possible genuine attacks, but they are always done without violence and even if possible not too fast, in any case not hastily.

It is important in this type of work to be careful not to block or corner the one in the center, so as not to drive him into a spiral of fear that would lead to aggressiveness, but on the contrary to help him come out of his imprisonment, both physical and mental, and to allow him to develop his potential.The summer workshop lasts for two weeks and is very concentrated: two Aikido sessions, two Katsugen undo sessions and one weapon session every day. It means seven or eight working hours per day, about fifty hours a week. That’s why we need this kind of work with the Jo, enabling bodies to unwind, to open out and find another dimension.

Sticks spin, spaces move about, bodies which are at times weary stretch. The atmosphere remains peaceful, sometimes even cheerful, but accuracy is there.

Men, women, children of all ages, in the respect of the specificities of each of them.

The sensitivity of the foetus

However, a clarification: pregnant women sometimes practice until the very last moment in our School. But since the beginning of their pregnancy we pay particular attention to the fact that being in such a special state, even if of course we never touch the body with the stick, it’s forbidden to do tsuki in the direction of the womb. Regardless of the risk of accident, to which we always pay a lot of attention. The point is not to direct the ki in that way, in other words with “the intention to hit”. Such a directed and guided ki would be instinctively recorded as dangerous and felt by the mother, and most of all by the baby, who is nothing but sensitivity, as an aggression, to the point of risking to cause at least a fear, or a contraction that would harm his good development. When we work on tsuki strokes, pregnant women step aside and watch, but do not participate.

A centripetal force can become a centrifugal force

Sometimes we work with Jo against Bokken. The point then is, precisely because the weapons are different, to understand on the one hand the way to use them and on the other hand their limits and capabilities, without forgetting that behind all this there is a human being. At other times, it is only uke who has a weapon. A stick, a Bokken, can be frightening if you have no weapon.You don’t know in which direction it will start, men, yokomen, tsuki, you cannot stop the stroke with a simple wave of your hand. Only by dodging, doing taisabaki, can you avoid the shock. Taking hold of the stick or of the Bokken, is then one of the chances to stop the attack, to transform it and make it harmless, so that we can use its energy in the opposite direction or divert it towards another direction. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see, to feel how for example a centripetal force, when it gets in contact with a centre, can turn into a centrifugal force so that it is driven towards the outside. What do we mean by “stopping the spear”1 ? The real point is not a question of winning or losing but rather of changing the system, of allowing something else to arise, and for this, the knowledge of the partner, the understanding between both partners is essential.

In every person there are some good and some bad sides, some good and some bad habits: all of this has to be guided towards harmony. Harmony is at the origin of our life, the thing is to get back to what is natural and always there deep inside every individual. That is, for me, the way of Aikido.

Our horizon can light up if we understand better the words of O Sensei Ueshiba, transmitted by my Master Itsuo Tsuda in his teaching and through his nine books. These words didn’t remain a dead letter; on the contrary they have come to life, once more, and continue through those who are willing to follow this path.

Article by Régis Soavi on the subject of the Aîkido stick (Aïkijo), published in Dragon Magazine (special Aikido n° 13) in July 2016.

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1Budō may be originally understood as «the way to stop the spear».

Ame no Ukihashi Ken, le sabre qui relie le ciel et la terre

Par Régis Soavi

pousse_bokken_tsudaDans la pratique de l’Aïkido j’ai toujours aimé le ken. Le sabre, comme le Kyudo tel qu’en parle Herrigel dans son livre sur l’art du tir à l’arc, est une extension du corps humain, une voie pour la réalisation de l’être. Dans notre École le premier acte au tout début de la séance est un salut avec le bokken devant la calligraphie. Chaque matin, après avoir revêtu mon kimono et pris quelques minutes de méditation à l’angle du dojo, je commence la pratique respiratoire par ce salut vers la calligraphie. C’est pour moi indispensable de m’harmoniser avec ce qui m’entoure, avec l’univers.
Le simple fait de respirer profondément en levant le bokken devant le tokonoma, avec une calligraphie, un ikebana, change la nature de la séance.
Il s’agit, pour moi, de réaliser Ame no Ukihashi1, le pont flottant céleste, ce qui relie l’humain et ce qui l’entoure, le conscient et l’inconscient, le visible et l’invisible.
Pendant toute la pratique respiratoire, la première partie de la séance, mon bokken est à mon coté, le même bokken depuis quarante ans. Il est comme un ami, une vieille connaissance. Offert par une femme simple et généreuse qui s’occupait des ventes à la boutique quand j’étais un jeune enseignant d’Aïkido au dojo de Maître Plée rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.

Mon étude du sabre

Itsuo Tsuda n’a jamais enseigné le ken. Évidemment il l’utilisait lui aussi pour le salut devant le tokonoma en début de séance et ensuite lorsque nous faisions la course en cercle autour de lui sur les tatamis avant de nous mettre en rang pour regarder la démonstration. Sinon il l’utilisait surtout pour les démonstrations de la poussée du bokken avec deux partenaires, comme il l’avait vu faire par O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba.
De fait, je ne fais pas de séparation entre Aïkido à mains nues, avec bokken ou avec jo. Ce qui compte le plus c’est à mon avis la fusion avec la respiration du partenaire. Cet autre si différent et pourtant si proche, et même, parfois, si dangereux.
Mes racines principales concernant les armes viennent de ce que j’ai appris avec Tatsuzawa Senseï. C’est ce qui m’a le plus influencé. Dans les années soixante-dix j’avais commencé à pratiquer le Hakko Ryu jujutsu avec Maître Maroteaux. Puis j’ai travaillé les armes à l’Institut Noro où il y avait des cours spécifiques et lors des stages avec Tamura Senseï et Sugano Senseï, ce travail faisait partie de l’Aïkido. Ce que Tatsuzawa Senseï m’a montré c’est une koryu (école ancienne), c’est autre chose. À Paris pour ses études, ce jeune japonais (nous avions tous deux une vingtaine d’années) s’est présenté un soir à l’improviste dans le dojo où j’enseignais l’Aïkido. Alors on a commencé à échanger : il pratiquait l’Aïkido avec moi et me montrait des techniques de l’École de sa famille que l’on travaillait un certain nombre d’heures par semaine, peut-être quatre ou cinq heures, pendant environ deux ans.


On pratiquait beaucoup le Iaïjutsu, et le Bojutsu2 aussi. Les techniques qu’il m’avait montrées m’ont marqué par leur extrême précision. Il était le jeune maître de l’École de sa famille, Jigo Ryu. À l’époque je ne connaissait même pas le nom de cette école. Aujourd’hui, il est devenu un senseï important, il est également le 19ème maître de Bushuden Kiraku Ryu, une école qui a plus de quatre siècles d’existence.
Il y a une réalité dans les armes qui peut manquer à la pratique de l’Aïkido tel qu’il est parfois enseigné aujourd’hui et risque de devenir alors une espèce de danse. Ou alors on essaye de tester celui qui est en face en y mettant trop de résistance et ça tourne à la bagarre.
Avec Tatsuzawa Senseï, il y avait une respiration. Une respiration qui n’était pas la même que celle que je trouvais chez Tsuda Senseï, mais il y avait quelque chose et j’aimais ce qu’il enseignait. C’était quelque chose de tellement fin, de tellement précis, de tellement beau que j’ai eu le désir d’en faire profiter mes élèves. Et pendant des années, lorsque je faisais des stages, je disais : « Ce que je viens de montrer est une technique de l’École de Tatsuzawa Senseï ». Progressivement ces deux ciels, l’enseignement de Tatsuzawa Senseï, et le travail sur la respiration avec Tsuda Senseï, m’ont amené à donner ce nom à ce que je découvrais moi-même, Ame no Ukihashi Ken, le sabre qui relie le ciel et la terre, le conscient et l’inconscient, le volontaire et l’involontaire.
Avec Tatsuzawa Senseï nous ne nous sommes plus vus pendant trente ans, et c’est lors d’un voyage au Japon, que nous nous sommes retrouvés ! C’est ainsi que depuis dix ans mes élèves travaillent l’art du Bushuden Kiraku Ryu avec lui et un de ses élèves, Saï Senseï. C’est pour nous une façon de mieux comprendre les origines des techniques que nous utilisons, c’est une recherche historique qui nous permet de découvrir le chemin parcouru par O Senseï Ueshiba.regis_soavi_baton

Un principe de réalité

Pour Tatsusawa Senseï l’entraînement devait être réel, pendant nos entraînements dans les années soixante-dix, il utilisait un iaïto et il frappait comme un damné ! « Men, men, kote, tsuki, men, tsuki. » Évidemment a un moment donné, la fatigue aidant, j’ai pris le sabre dans l’épaule, je m’en souviens encore. Comme c’était un sabre en métal, il a pénétré de quelques centimètres dans l’épaule, trois, peut-être quatre. Ça m’a réveillé. Je n’ai plus jamais été endormi sur les esquives. Fini. C’était un réveil, parce qu’évidement il n’était pas là pour me faire du mal. Son état d’esprit, était de me réveiller, de me pousser dans une direction, afin que je ne sois pas un espèce de pataud endormi. Eh bien, ça m’a servi. En ce sens, le sabre peut nous réveiller. Un bon coup de pied au cul, vaut mieux parfois que mille caresses. Je suis encore très reconnaissant à mon maître d’avoir fait entrer la réalité dans mon corps.
Aujourd’hui où l’Aïkido semble devenir un passe-temps pour certains, je les rappelle à la réalité avec douceur mais fermeté.
J’ai trop souvent vu des parodies de sorties de katana avec un bokken, où l’on se contente d’ouvrir la main en guise de sortie du sabre (ceux qui pratiquent le iaï me comprendront).
Nous ne devons pas confondre le Noble Art du Sabre avec l’utilisation que nous en faisons dans l’Aïkido.
À ma fille qui pratique depuis toute petite l’Aïkido et adore le sabre, j’ai toujours conseillé d’aller voir une vraie école de sabre. Elle a choisi d’étudier, en plus de l’Aïkido, elle aussi le Bushuden Kiraku Ryu avec Tatsuzawa Senseï et le Iaïjutsu avec Matsuura Senseï, qui lui enseignent ce que je n’aurais jamais pu lui enseigner.
L’Aïkiken n’est pas le Kendo, ni le Iaïdo. La poésie n’est pas le roman et vice et versa, chaque art a ses spécificités, mais quand nous utilisons un bokken nous ne devons pas oublier que c’est un katana qui a aussi une tsuba et un fourreau, même s’ils sont invisibles. Nous devons l’utiliser avec le même respect, la même rigueur, la même attention.
Chaque bokken est unique, malgré leur fabrication souvent plutôt industrielle, c’est à nous d’en faire un objet respectable, unique, grâce à notre attention, à la façon dont on le manipule, dont on le bouge. Par exemple si on visualise la sortie du sabre en travaillant avec un bokken, on doit aussi visualiser sa rentrée. Petit à petit il se charge, on peut avoir l’impression qu’il devient plus lourd. D’ailleurs les élèves qui ont l’occasion de toucher mon bokken, de le prendre, ou parfois de travailler avec lui, le trouvent toujours très spécial, à la fois plus facile à manier et en même temps plus exigent disent-ils. Ce n’est plus tout à fait le même, ce n’est plus un bokken ordinaire. C’est pour cela aussi que je conseille à mes élèves d’avoir leur propre bokken, leur propre bâton. Les armes se chargent. Si vous avez un bokken ou un bâton que vous avez bien choisi, que vous chargez de ki, et que vous utilisez pendant des années, il aura une nature différente, il va vous ressembler quelque part. Déjà vous pourrez connaître exactement sa dimension, la dimension du bâton, la dimension du bokken, au millimètre près. Ce qui vous évitera les accidents.
Il aura une consistance différente si on agit de cette façon il sera alors le reflet de ce que nous sommes. La circulation du ki change le bokken et l’on peut commencer à comprendre pourquoi le sabre était l’âme du samouraï.
On se souvient de ces sabres légendaires qui reflétaient tellement l’âme du samouraï qu’ils ne pouvaient être touchés que par leur propriétaire. J’ai eu l’occasion de découvrir cela à une époque où, pour continuer à pratiquer et subvenir à mes besoins, je travaillais dans la brocante, l’antiquité. Je m’étais fait une spécialité de revente de sabre japonais, katana, wakizashi, tanto. Le fait de les côtoyer, car je n’avais en aucun cas les moyens de les acheter, m’a permis, plus encore que de les admirer, de découvrir quelque chose d’indicible.
Certains avaient une telle charge de ki, c’était extrêmement impressionnant ! On pouvait sentir rien qu’en sortant dix à quinze centimètres de lame si le sabre avait une âme agressive ou généreuse, ou bien s’il dégageait une grande noblesse, etc. Au début cela me semblait absurde, mais les marchands avec qui je travaillais m’ont confirmé la réalité de ces sensations et par la suite les discussions avec Tsuda Senseï leur ont donné la réalité dont elles avaient besoin.regis_soavi_bokken
Une arme sans respiration, sans fusion, qu’est-ce que c’est ? Rien du tout, un morceau de bois, un morceau de métal.
Tchouang-tseu, nous parle bien de fusion, d’extension de l’être avec l’outil, l’arme, quand il parle du boucher :

La fusion avec le partenaire

« Quand j’ai commencé à pratiquer mon métier, je voyais tout le bœuf devant moi. Trois ans plus tard, je n’en voyais plus que des parties. Aujourd’hui, je le trouve par l’esprit sans plus le voir de mes yeux. Mes sens n’interviennent plus, mon esprit agit comme il l’entend et suit de lui-même les linéaments du bœuf. Lorsque ma lame tranche et disjoint, elle suit les failles et les fentes qui s’offrent à elle. Elle ne touche ni aux veines, ni aux tendons, ni à l’enveloppe des os, ni bien sûr à l’os même. […] Quand je rencontre une articulation, je repère le point difficile, je le fixe du regard et, agissant avec une prudence extrême, lentement je découpe. Sous l’action délicate de la lame, les parties se séparent avec un houo léger comme celui d’un peu de terre que l’on pose sur le sol. Mon couteau à la main, je me redresse, je regarde autour de moi, amusé et satisfait et après avoir nettoyé la lame, je le remets dans le fourreau. […] »3

S’il n’y a pas fusion avec le partenaire, on ne peut pas travailler avec une arme, ou sinon ce n’est qu’une brutalité, de la bagarre. C’est justement parce qu’on l’utilise en fusionnant la respiration avec le partenaire qu’on peut découvrir ce qu’avant nous ont découvert de grands maîtres. Tous leurs efforts pour nous indiquer la voie, le chemin à parcourir seront perdus si nous ne faisons pas nous, l’effort de travailler comme ils nous l’ont suggéré. Une arme dans la main on peut découvrir notre sphère, la rendre visible. Et grâce à cela que on peux étendre notre respiration à quelque chose de plus grand qui ne va pas se limiter à notre petite sphère personnelle, mais qui va passer au-delà. Si on utilise les armes comme cela je trouve que cela a un sens, mais si on les utilise en essayant de couper la tête des autres, de les blesser ou de montrer que l’on est le plus fort on doit aller voir ailleurs que dans notre notre École.
Les armes sont le prolongement de nos bras, qui sont le prolongement de notre centre. Il y a des lignes de ki qui partent de notre centre, du hara. Elles agissent à travers les mains. Si on met une arme au bout, un bokken, un wakizashi, un bâton, ces lignes de ki peuvent converger. Elles ont un prolongement. C’est peut être plus facile quand on travaille à mains nues, ça commence à être plus difficile avec une arme. Mais cela devient aussi très intéressant : on n’est plus limité, on devient « illimité ». C’est justement cela qui est important, c’est une suite logique dans mon enseignement. Au départ, on travaille un peu petit, à l’étroit en quelque sorte, puis on essaye d’aller plus grand, d’aller au-delà tout en partant de notre centre. Parfois, il y a des coupures, le ki ne passe pas à l’épaule, au coude, au poignet, aux doigts. Parfois le bokken devient comme le bâton d’une marionnette guignol frappant le gendarme, alors ça n’a plus de sens. C’est pour ça que je montre ces lignes que tous peuvent voir. C’est quelque chose que l’on connaît dans l’acupuncture. On peut les voir aussi dans le shiatsu et dans bien des arts différents. Et là, on va au-delà. Si on pouvait les matérialiser par des lignes lumineuses ce serait étonnant à voir. C’est ce qui nous lie aussi aux autres. Ce qui nous permet de comprendre l’autre. Ce sont des lignes liées au corps, pas uniquement au corps matériel, mais au corps dans son ensemble tant physique que kokoro. C’est ce qu’il y a de subtil, d’immatériel, qui est lié, il n’y a pas de différence.

Seitai-do

Dans notre École nous pratiquons cet art qu’est le Seitai-do, la voie du Seitai. Cet art qui comprend entre autre le Katsugen undo (Mouvement régénérateur suivant la terminologie d’Itsuo Tsuda) nous permet de retrouver tant au niveau de l’involontaire que de l’intuition une qualité de réponse peu habituelle.
Il réveille l’instinct « animal » dans le bon sens du terme un peu comme lorsque nous étions des enfants, joueurs ou même parfois turbulents mais sans réelle agressivité, et qui prennent la vie comme un jeu avec tout le sérieux que cela impose.
C’est grâce à cet art que j’ai découvert l’intermission respiratoire, cet espace temps entre inspire et expire, et entre expire et inspire. Ce moment infinitésimal presque indécelable pendant lequel le corps ne peux pas réagir. C’est dans un de ces moments que l’on applique la technique seitai. Au début il est difficile de le percevoir et encore plus d’agir exactement à ce moment là, très précisément. Pourtant petit à petit on ressent cet espace de façon très claire on a l’impression qu’il s’élargit, et de fait on a l’impression que le temps s’écoule de manière différente comme parfois lors d’une chute ou d’un accident. On peut se demander quel rapport il y a avec le travail des armes dans l’Aïkido. C’est que justement notre recherche est dans cette direction et l’anecdote suivante racontée par Tsuda Senseï est révélatrice.

Un niveau trop élevé

Haruchika Noguchi Senseï le créateur du Seitai lorsqu’il était encore jeune voulut pratiquer le Kendo, il s’inscrivit dans un dojo pour apprendre cet art. Après les préparatifs d’usage il a devant lui un kendoka. À peine l’autre leva son shinaï au dessus de sa tète, que Noguchi Senseï le toucha à la gorge, bien que ne connaissant aucune technique. L’enseignant lui envoya un pratiquant plus avancé, même résultat, on lui mit un sixième dan en face : pas mieux. Le maître lui demanda s’il avait déjà fait du Kendo : « Pas du tout » répond-il « je pique au moment de l’intermission respiratoire, c’est tout. » « Vous avez déjà atteint un niveau trop élevé Senseï. » dit-il. C’est ainsi que Noguchi Senseï ne put jamais apprendre le Kendo.
Pratiquer l’Aïkido à mains nues, pratiquer l’Aïkiken, utiliser le jo, le bo, pratiquer les koryu ou tout autre art comme Itsuo Tsuda lui-même qui faisait la récitation de Nô, l’essentiel n’est pas dans la technique, mais dans l’art lui-même et son enseignement qui doit permettre la réalisation de l’individu. Tsuda Senseï citant les différent arts qu’il avait pratiqués nous disait : « Maître Ueshiba, Maître Noguchi, Maître Hosada4 ont creusé des puits d’une profondeur exceptionnelle. […] Ils ont atteint les veines d’eau, la source de la vie. Cependant, ces puits ne communiquent pas entre eux, bien que ce soit la même eau qu’on y trouve. »5

Article de Régis Soavi sur le thème du sabre de l’aïkido, publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°12)  avril 2016.

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Notes :

1 Voir le Kojiki ( 古事記) recueil de mythes concernant l’origine des îles formant le Japon et les kami.
2 Le bō est un long bâton de 180 cm manié avec les deux mains.
3 J.F. Billeter, Leçons sur Tchouang-Tseu, p. 16, Éditions Allia, Paris, 2002.
4 Théâtre Nô : École Kanze Kasetsu.
5 Itsuo Tsuda, le Non-faire, Avant-propos p. 10, Éditions Le courrier du Livre, 1973.

Out of dualism

By Régis Soavi

Soulevez le ciel puis repoussez la terre_TSUDA_WEBTalking about omote-ura as an Aikido subject immediately reminds me about yang-yin (in Japanese yo / in).

Nevertheless in the West the general trend is to perceive it as black and white; they are opposed to each other, divided between light and dark, categorised as positive and negative, like at school or even with sexist references. It’s very easy, we have habits and we do not even realise that.
The Tao is represented flat, to be more exact as a ball where yin and yang interpenetrate each other, but in fact each one keeps its own space: you, me, him, the other.
Philosophically we talk extensively on one or the other, but we forget the great Chinese thinkers: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Li Tzu, or Sun Tzu, to name just the most famous.
Black or white, yin or yang. And what is grey? If we keep on thinking in a dualistic way, it’s a mixture of both.

My Master Itsuo Tsuda hardly ever quoted omote or ura, besides that, he rarely gave a Japanese name for what he did or showed. Fluently bilingual, he has always preferred French for his explanations, and particularly in his books he wrote in one go, almost without correction.
He could guide our sensitivity and make us feel thanks to the practice of Katsugen undo (Regenerating Movement), yuki, and particularly through his touch or even his silent presence, this non-dualistic world that he had come to help us discovering.

Discovering with the body

yin becomes yang
yin becomes yang

Aikido is a way of discovering your own body, I mean physically, concretely feel those fluids that run following networks with a  yin or yang tendency.
When during the practice omote or ura is mentioned, it usually refers to the whole movement, the tendency, possibly his ending.
The breathing can help us understand it better, feel, what it is all about. It is better to start working with a rather slow pace, if you go too fast at the beginning there is a big chance not to succeed.
The focus is on breathing, by following the inhale, then the exhale, you move focusing on the inner feeling, you can work on this kind of exercises with a partner, closing your eyes and remaining focused on the center. Arms for example open or close independently of our will, they obey to a necessity that comes from the yin or the yang.

Soulevez le ciel puis repoussez la terre_en action_ Regis Soavi_HORIZ-1_WEB

If you want to practice Aikido as the practice of the not-doing, all the work must be about feeling, you dig, deepening more and more and gradually something will move within us; and one day you will realize that you have overcome something. The wall that was blocking us, which resulted in a stiff or uncertain technique, and therefore artificial, completely unrealistic, it has dropped. At that point you feel free, extremely free.
The research takes then a different turn. The perception of the yin/yang becomes evidence. It is something that I find difficult to express in words, because everything becomes simple: gestures, movements, there is no mental action. It comes directly from the center, and then a great sweetness naturally arises, a sweetness that can be yin or yang, but very strong in any case, a powerful sweetness which has an effect on and knows how to act in harmony with the partner or the opponent, depending on the circumstances that led the one in front of us to act like this or that.
The tendency during the inspiration is rather towards an opening and thus is yin; expiration closes the body and its tendency is yang. Already just with the breathing you can hear, if you pay attention, the yin and yang, but they are only the expression and the direction of the energy that has materialised. The visible part, the one that the physical body can finally use, is ready.
When looking at the body, the front part is yin and the back is yang, although the front leg is yang and the back of the leg is yin: this is admitted in all schools, but the passage of ki from one to the other is rarely explained in martial arts, it often remains only looked at the surface.

Meeting Itsuo Tsuda, the practice of Katsugen undo and the discovery of the Seitai by Master Haruchika Noguchi were fundamental during my research and gave me an understanding of the body and its movement that was missing until then. Some areas that had remained vague in the teaching of Aikido, as the hara, have become extremely accurate with the Seitai. One can for example verify the state of  the « three points of the belly. » The first must be yin, the second one should be neutral, the third yang, positive and reactive. « The purpose of the Regenerating Movement is to regulate our body, normalize it. Regulate our body is not only necessary to make us healthy. Whatever kind of activity we practice, whether is calligraphy, or drawing or practicing martial arts, the first need is the one to start regulating our body, otherwise you miss an opportunity. »1

Non-Doing and non-dualism

In Aikido we let the ki arise from Seika Tanden, the hara (3rd point in the belly in Seitai), and its tendency is yang because it results from the strength that comes from the back, force that is not expressed in the shoulders, as we see too often, but naturally thanks to the koshi. The crossing point of this force, of ki that became yang, is the 3rd lumbar vertebra which is actually in a yin position in the spine. By visualizing the abdominal breathing one can tell that the yin inspiration inflates the abdomen and prepares the action which is going to be yang, and at the same time, ki goes down along the spine and permeate the entire body2. When the ki gets out directly from the center its tendency is yang, but depending on the circuit that it will take it will express as yin or yang. If it follows the internal circuits of the stomach and arms, the inside of the body, then it becomes yin, otherwise its expression will be yang. The resulting force will also be yang or yin depending on the moment when it is used. Of course, in a world that is not separated, time is also part of this unity. Although we can slow down or speed up the moment of an impact, for example to be precisely in the right place, at the right moment with the right breathing and the right ki, this cannot happen without the coordination happening in our « involuntary system”. This is precisely where the teaching by Itsuo Tsuda has brought decisive elements. To make us enter the world of sensation, insisting on the Non-Doing, allowing us to discover the non-dualism, he gave us the keys we can still use today, because they are within reach of all, as his books testify.

Yin et Yang

If we break down a movement like ryo te dori ten chi nage in the omote form, uke comes up with a yang force. He is in the middle of the exhalation, tori receives that at the end of his yang, yin has already expanded in him, it has become in-compressible, it will still expand and will ultimately overwhelm uke. Then it’s the time for yang to expand, you notice that because the arms turn, this time it is the dividing line between yin and yang that goes from bottom to top. For uke the movement started already at the beginning of the inspiration, unable to resist it breaks off and falls, like when a fruit is ripe and falls in the hand. In the ura form, tori must wait because yang is still too powerful, he turns to deviate the force but as soon as he gets his yin force back, it can use the yang force to start in omote or let the yin force continue its work until total envelopment of uke.

Tenshi-nage-ura

Similarly in kokyu ho, there are different ways to do it: either you project immediately the yang force or you allow the yin force to expand and at the end you use the yang. Again it all depends on the condition, the moment, the partner. The yang force is more direct, more interventionist than the yin force, but can easily harden people. The authoritarian fathers know this problem with their children and a fracture is often accomplished during the adolescence. The yin force is enveloping, sweet but sometimes misused, like some mothers do. They may risk to imprison their child and he will then struggle to get out of the footprint of the family cocoon.

Ideally when yin ends it allows the radiant take off, after the “ ark » inner work of preparation during childhood, a real detachment without fracture, like the ripe fruit falls off the tree at the right moment. The radiant take off is freedom without thoughts. The ability to be the own Tao. Simply the realization of being.

The body spheres

SPHERES_Irimi_WEBOur body is in between others with an external surface: the skin is somehow the material sphere. But we are not limited by the skin, it only defines the internal yin from the external yang, ura and omote. This surface is a sphere that has taken the form of a human being.

Beyond this there is another sphere that everyone can instinctively feel. It occurs rather in the form of a deform-able egg as needed. This sphere is often represented in religions, it is called Mandorle or Aura. It is the visual representation of a reality experienced by everyone, and kept alive in martial arts. It is also yin internally and yang outside with an extremely precise limit, it is possible to observe that what is yang compared to the skin it is yin compared to the energy sphere.

Irimi and tenkan

Irimi nage

When doing irimi for example, we allow uke to enter our yin sphere, he is relieved from his yang ki excess that had became hard and rigid, his terrain is normalised, we allow him to find an internal balance. Then with irimi nage we end up with a yang movement that will cause in him the desire to fall in order to avoid the worst. On the other hand with tenkan both spheres barely touch each other and only merge at the level of the hand. The Yang surfaces push, sustained by the internal yin, become strong, standing side by side, rejecting and sliding against each other.
If tori lets his elbow slide to enter the sphere of uke, then his yin movement will grow so to overwhelm uke that, once again, will fall to avoid the inconvenience of this turnaround.

In our school, the first part of the Aikido session is dedicated to a solitary practice. One of the exercise involves lifting the arms palm facing the sky to then lower them. Itsuo Tsuda told us: « Lift the sky then push the earth. « There are different ways to do this exercise. If we try to raise them using the yang the shoulders will contract, if we try to push the earth with the yin we will remain stuck in the middle of the movement. Raising the arms unifying with heaven (yin) and down in harmony with the earth (yang), it was this kind of work, the visualization that I started with my master and I still continue after forty years.

Allowing a conscious circulation of ki, improving our perception of this movement, of this sphere of energy that many speak about but only a few can perceive so clearly, this is how I intend my current work.

To allow the normalisation of  the terrain of those people who come to the dojo and give them visible or invisible instruments, conscious or unconscious to enable them to achieve independence, autonomy, inner freedom.

For this the awareness about omote-ura, as an expression of the yang-yin, is in my opinion essential.

Article by Régis Soavi about Omote-Ura, published in the Dragon Magazine (Special Aikido No.11) in January 2016

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Notes :

1. Abstract of the conference Regulate the body by Noguchi Haruchika sensei, translated by Tsuda Itsuo into French (trad. It. The unstable triangle, Chapter XIX).
2. Master Noguchi Haruchika, on the other hand, advocated the exercise Sekitsui Gyoki – 脊椎 行 気 法 or Breathing through the column that starts from the « second points of the head » and that allows the normalization of the terrain (the whole body, of course in a unified manner, physical, mental, etc.).

3. Photos by Régis Sirvent and Jérémie Logeay

Hanami à Paris

Nous avons eu le plaisir de participer à Hanami au jardin d’acclimatation de Paris les 23 et 24 avril. Le Hanami est une coutume japonaise qui consiste à contempler les fleurs, en particulier celles des cerisiers, dans la période où elles entrent en pleine floraison. Cet événement Parisien où plus de dix mille personnes ont parcouru ce jardin, était organisé en collaboration avec la Japan Expo.

Film de la démonstrations d’Aïkido, Pratique respiratoire

Lire la suite

spot workshop 2016

We are pleased to propose this short video showing the work of Régis Soavi . A work that he keep on doing for over thirty years , during workshops and in the daily practice . You can find all the dates of the next workshops on this page: https://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/stages/

Subtitle available in French , click the first icon to the right of the video

©Ecole Itsuo Tsuda 2016
Prises de vues et réalisation Valentina Mele et Marta Andreose

Kokyu disclosure of the unity of being

By Régis Soavi

In one of his books Itsuo Tsuda gives us his views on kokyu:

CouvTsuda_PathOfLess_Mini“In learning a Japanese art, the question of “kokyu” always arises, strictly speaking, the equivalent of actual respiration. But the word also means to have a knack for doing something, to know the trick. When there is no “kokyu”, we cannot do a thing properly.  A cook needs “kokyu” to use his knife well, and a worker his tools. “Kokyu” cannot be explained; it is acquired.
When I was young, I saw a labourer working with his screwdriver on very rusty machinery.  I tried to unscrew a piece of the machine, but in vain; it was too rusty. For the labourer, it posed no problem; he unscrewed it with ease, not because he was stronger but because he had “kokyu”.
When we acquire “kokyu” it seems that tools, machines, materials, until then “indomitable”, suddenly become docile and obey our commands with no resistance.
Ki, kokyu, respiration, intuition are themes that are pivotal to the arts and crafts of Japan. It constitutes a professional secret, not because people want to keep it like a patent, or a recipe for earning their living, but because it cannot be passed on intellectually. Respiration is the final word, the ultimate secret of learning. Only the best disciples gain access to it, after years of sustained effort.
A martial arts master whom dogs bark at is not a good master, they say. The French know how to silence dogs by sliding a piece of sugar in their mouths. That’s the trick, that’s “the thing”, but it is not kokyu, respiration, which is something else entirely.”

Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33-34.

I discovered kokyu with my master Itsuo Tsuda.aikido kokyu
Previously, it was to me just the name of a technique, with Itsuo Tsuda this notion became much more concrete, firstly by the orientation of his practice. He said: « To me technique is simply a test of knowing whether I’ve evolved in my breathing. » Thus our attention was brought directly to kokyu. There couldn’t be aikido and breathing. Aikido is breathing. And then, from his first books on, Itsuo Tsuda illuminates us in terms I didn’t knew; almost too simple and yet so difficult to achieve.

When I attacked him it was crystal clear, regardless the strength I put in he remained both, relaxed and powerful.
He made us use visualization to teach us kokyu. E.g. for kokyu ho he said: « It is the lotus flower opening. » Today few people have seen the lotus flower, so I speak of a daisy. Visualization should talk to us, directed to us. For it to act, it must be anchored in the concrete life of each person.

So sometimes to help someone to get beyond a partner that is holding the wrists to prevent him or her to move, I say, « You welcome a friend you haven’t seen for years, who steps out of the train, take him in your arms! » Then the person forgets the other and ki, instead of being coagulated, flows in the given direction, the person raises the arms without any effort. The power of visualization is colossal.

Sure, posture is essential, I would even say primordial. If the body stiffens to become an impeccable posture; it’s screwed. If it is too flabby; it’s screwed. If the third lumbar is wrongly positioned: it’s screwed. With the practice of aikido and katsugen undo I see that my students are gradually recovering. Ki begins to flow without blockage, without disruption, it is the discovery of unforced abdominal breathing, but clear and limpid, from the kokyu. In my view, without kokyu, all the work in aikido is only intended to strengthen the body, it is a work of hardening.kokyu ho régis soavi

With the deepening of breath little by little the needlessness disappears, we do not need to work on flexibility or strength, stiffness and our ideas of strength and weakness are leaving. So ki circulates better.
For this direction, the respiratory practice we do in the beginning of the sessions is important.
You can not teach kokyu, but you can guide individuals to discover it.
If we practice kokyu ho every morning at the end of each session, it is precisely to make people sensitive and also to improve our posture. As our posture and the way we behave refines and improves, we are able to help the normalization of the terrain of our partner. If you breathe deeply from the hara to the hara of the partner, you revitalize the channels through which ki flows, you enable these circuits to function better, and the other understands (feels) with his entire body what it is about.
It is not about looking at the demonstration and working harder and harder, but rather about being pervaded with this kokyu feeling of the other. I often say: to work on the kokyu we must start by listening. We listen to the other, not with the ears but with the whole of our body, we feel the breathing, the ki, of the other. It’s like a perfume. We listen to the inner movement, so the feeling becomes more accurate and we can guide him or her to a better posture, towards a release of tension.

It is also the work of senior practitioners to encourage this discovery. By bathing the other in breath, they help them to feel it, by dint of being soaked with « something ».

In the practice of katsugen undo Tsuda Sensei introduced in Europe, first comes the awareness  by the breathing, by the movement of ki. Tsuda wrote: « In the regenerating movement (katsugen undo), we do the opposite of the tradition: we begin with the supreme secret, straight off1. »

Kokyu is no more magical than ki is an energy. As soon as we launch ourselves into an explanation, even if  we let know that it will be approximately, big chance we blow it.
The ancient tales, such as those recorded by the Brothers Grimm, can show us an aspect of kokyu powers. As in fairy tales, it can transform toads into a prince or princess and grow people more beautiful by the simple fact of transforming their posture. This posture, the result of many years of contraction, weakness, or attempts of correction. When the posture finds back something natural, it is the return to the source, to the root of being.regis soavi aikido

The discovery of kokyu leads us to different behaviors in everyday life. This respiration, far from being seen as in “New Age”, awakens in the individuals’ daily life forgotten qualities, lost simplicity, and intuition finally found. It is what can be admirable in the work of a craftsman and an artist, but it is also what surprises those who do not know it. Because we did not understand nor felt what is behind this entirety in the performed act: kokyu is a revelation of the unity of being.

Itsuo Tsuda has guided us in that direction, leaving us free to go further or stay put. This freedom was fundamental in his teaching.

It is said that sometimes when the posture, the breathing, the coordination was perfect, Ueshiba O Sensei exclaimed “Kami Wasa”. God-technique? Supreme realization? Couldn’t we talk about kokyu or Non-Doing in the greatest simplicity? Like a child who drops a toy to take another, in the same way as he aspires us to take him in our arms for protection.
A small child has kokyu. “The baby is as big as the universe, but treated poorly fades quickly”2, Tsuda Sensei wrote in his last book. Isn’t it our duty to enable him to preserve it? And to us  adults, it to regain?

Aikido is not made for fighting, but to allow a better harmony between people.
I breathe deeply, I listen to the body of the other, in his or her body I visualize the flow of ki, I hear and clearly understand it, so I let ki passing into the body of the other. This circulation brings us fullness, the feeling of being fully alive, everything disappears, there is nothing but the present moment with its sensations, its colors, its music.

Article written by Régis Soavi on the subject of kokyu, published in Dragon Magazine(Special Aikido No. 10) in October 2015.

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1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33
2) Itsuo Tsuda, Face à la science, Éditions Le Courrier du livre, Paris, 1983, p. 152.

Vidéo : aïkido #1

Lors du Centenaire d’Itsuo Tsuda au dojo Tenshin se sont tenues des séances matinales d’Aïkido conduites par Régis Soavi qui ont permis la rencontre de plusieurs groupes créés par d’anciens élèves d’Itsuo Tsuda. L’espace tatamis pourtant conséquent avait rarement accueilli autant de pratiquants venus spécialement de plusieurs pays d’Europe. Cette vidéo aïkido nous permet de pour retrouver ce moment

Filmé le samedi 15 novembre 2014 au Dojo Tenshin.

vidéo aïkido

Le Centenaire d’Itsuo Tsuda

centenaire itsuo tsudaDimanche 16 novembre 2014  s’est achevé ce qui restera un moment exceptionnel, à la fois hommage à un écrivain et fruit du travail de toute une école.

L’événement autour d’Itsuo Tsuda aura réuni durant un week-end plusieurs centaines de personnes dans un lieu spécialement préparé pour l’occasion. Le dojo Tenshin qui fêtera prochainement ses trente années d’existence s’est transformé durant ces derniers mois pour accueillir le centenaire de la naissance d’un homme dont l’œuvre résonne plus que jamais.

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