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G. Leichman reports the Seattle Seminar 2005 with some observations by a "blue-haired" participant
The weekend of April 8-10, 2005, we had the pleasure of Seishiro Endo Shihan teaching a week-end seminar in Seattle. This was his first visit to the USA, though he has been teaching seminars in Europe for many years. Endo Sensei is an 8th Dan Shihan at Hombu Dojo, teaching there and at his own dojo in the city of Saku in Nagano Prefecture.
The seminar was organized by Glenn Leichman of Aikido on Willapa Bay, a country dojo in the making, but was held in the Wellness Center, in the beautiful and spacious gymnasium of North Seattle Community College. Over 100 students, ranking from beginner up to high Dan ranks, students and Senseis alike attended the seminar. Almost the entire floor space of a full sized basketball court was covered in mats of various descriptions (and all taped together!). People attended from as far away as Finland, Germany, Atlanta, Orlando, Western and Eastern Canada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and more.
One attendee, who identified himself as the Aussie with blue hair, had this to say about the seminar.
My first impressions are of a great instructor and Aikidoka. His techniques were very soft, yet it seemed to take almost no effort to get big falls or his uke-of-the-moment taking huge steps waaay off balance. He worked just as effortlessly with the mudansha as yudansha, adjusting the speed of his techniques to uke's level. What I was particularly impressed by was the way that he would travel around the mat and pick a group and demonstrate the technique over and over to everyone that wanted. Each person got to try out being uke once on each side and then he'd move to the next person. In the other seminars I've been to, the instructor would rarely demonstrate on others than his students or a few known higher-ranking attendees. Here, he would deliberately find the group of white belts hiding in the corner and then take them through everything very slowly, making sure to give everyone a try that wanted to feel the technique. In my own such experience, it was amazingly soft - just these light little touches and you're moving around wondering WTF just happened to you, and why you are now on the floor.
The style of this seminar was quite different to what I have experienced before. In each session, a single principle was taught - the overall principle of the seminar was whole body movement. That is, a technique does not come from the way the arms are moved, or the feet, but the way nage moves their entire body. It would start with a very simple exercise involving moving one body part, and slowly involve more and more of the body, until the final complete technique of the session. For example, the session on Friday evening spent the first hour working on the shoulders and using the body, eventually resulting in doing nikkyo from sleeve or lapel grab with just the movement of the shoulders, without involving the arms or hands at all. The idea was to focus on feeling uke's movements and using one's own to take advantage of that without using any strength (by deliberately removing anything that could be "strong" from the technique).
Endo sensei also emphasizes a lot about not only nage being sensitive to uke's ki, but also the reverse. Softness of uke/ukemi so that they can feel the intent of nage was something that he would often highlight. Several exercises were practiced that deliberately weakened the uke part of the relationship. Quite a few times he demonstrated how this softness of nage can be quickly used for offensive means if needed, and how stiffness or strength in exactly the same situation could not be used in the same way. Several times he spoke of the aiki philosophy, how that differs from pure budo and jujitsu philosophies, and thus why it is important to aikido, using the demonstrations of this softness vs strength to show it.
The other highlight of the seminar was the Saturday night dinner. This was held in a cool little Greek deli/restraunt down in Capitol Hill. Food was very impressive (and so was the homebrew brought along!). How many other high-ranking Aikido masters do you know that will not only encourage a sing-along at their seminar dinner, but also lead it by singing two solo songs to start it all off? (In case there are other attendees on this list - I'm the blue-haired aussie that sang Waltzing Matilda)
Thank you, the blue haired Aussie, for your wonderful observations of this seminar. And thank you to all who attended. It was such a success that Endo Sensei has agreed to comeback to seattle next year. The dates will be April 7-9 2006. Hope to see you all there.