An Aikikai Guest Visits an Unaffiliated
Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo in Queens, NY
Friday, December 20, 2013
A Nihon Goshin Aikido Experience from an Aikikai Perspective.
“Work had me travel to New York the past few days. I brought a gi with me so I could visit a local dojo. I found myself at Aikido of Queens.
They follow a pre-war style of aikido called Nihon Goshin Aikido. Very direct.
Between work and my unfamiliarity with the area, I got to the dojo just as class was starting. I met the chief instructor at the front desk and asked if I could join the class. After giving him some background information and filling out the usual form, I was able to join in. It's important to know what experience someone has for safety. He asked me how long I'd been practicing and realized that I had a decent amount of experience so I wouldn't need a huge chunk of the instructors time.
I quickly changed and joined the class. I did a few quick stretches in the changing room as I missed their warm up. In our warm ups we stretch for quite a while followed by some ukemi practice. Their warm ups had some aerobic and strength exercises followed by a little bit of stretching.
The techniques covered in that class were very close to the techniques we do. They practice with lots of energy. Attacks are done at a good clip and with intent. There is less telegraphing of strikes than what I see at times. The practice is.... Attack, get up, throw, attack... One after another. No talking on the mat and everything at a brisk pace. Similar to a New England Aikikai class.
When I first got on the mat they had me work with the most experienced student on the mat. This is very common when I go to a new dojo for the first time. They don't know me so they give me someone that can handle me in case I'm nuts. Also, someone who can really help if I'm lost. They do colored belts in this system so I was working with a brown belt(a 1st kyu). Once they figured out that I can practice with control they allowed me to start cycling through partners. I was even trusted enough to work with one of their white belts. I made sure I treated each of my partners according to his ability. At one point I was putting one of their mid level belts into a pin that they do(one I know about but isn't practiced much). He was putting a lot of tenseness into his arm. I didn't say anything but I did take his arm at the elbow and wiggled it around a bit until he relaxed and then I pinned it. If I pinned his arm when he was putting muscle into his arm he could've strained something.
Maybe I can describe a couple of the techniques we did. Stand in a normal stance. No hanmi. Attack is moretetori. For the left arm grabbed, you'd take a step back to open your stance by bringing the left foot back. Let uke's energy take him past you. Bring the arm down then forward and then back for a kokyunage (Spin Around). We also did iriminage (Unbendable Arm) and other techniques from this opening. For their iriminage they like to pin uke's outstretched hand to nages leg as they bring uke around (Yes! We do.).
Their vertical pin was a bit different than ours. We usually take the edge of the hand and place it in the inside joint at the elbow. You can sandwich it there and get a good pin from it. They were doing the pin differently and I'm pretty sure I wasn't getting it 100% right. I tried doing it their way though (Come Along Throw Pin). They just had the arm outstretched tall and pinned it to their body so they could apply pressure.
The horizontal nikkyo (First Wrist Technique) pin was pretty much the same. However after a couple pins I started pinning the brown belt, with one of Matt's style of pins where you start applying the nikkyo (First Wrist Technique) early and slide uke's arms down the angled leg tightening everything as you go. My partner loved it.
My favorite technique we did is similar to one we do. Yokomen strike. Turn to the inside, lead uke over as you take a knee. Not sure what to call it. I'd have to say it was a seoi otoshi (High Bridge). When I took ukemi for this I did a normal break fall like I usually do. This apparently got the chief instructors attention. He very much liked my falls. He repeatedly called over to me to tell me he really liked them.
At the end of class was a freestyle with partners (1 attack each). I was a lot more fuzzy than I usually am for this. I did a little bit of everything. I did stuff that was covered in class. I got my partner in an ikkyo (Arm Bar)and set him up for a hip throw. I got sankyo (Hand Shake) a number of times. One time I just went right up his center and dumped him straight over (Unbendable Arm). I was pretty sure from his reaction that he hadn't seen that one. Another sankyo (Handshake) I cranked to get him around behind me(I did help out by stepping across the front a little to get a better position) and then did a seio otoshi (Mugger’s Throw). I let it go at the end so he could roll out. For the most part the class wasn't doing breakfalls so I didn't want to force him to take one. I think the last sankyo (Handshake) I turned into a kaitenage (Wheel Throw). They do a similar technique. Come to think of it, I don't think the general students were doing transitions from one technique into another. That may not be part of their syllabus yet. Actually, it's not really part of mine yet either.
After class they asked where I had done this form of aikido before. I told them I hadn't seen it but a lot of the techniques looked similar enough. I had to fight muscle memory on a couple of things but for the most part I was able to keep up. It's definitely like being a beginner again when you enter a new place like that. I watched feet, hands, body position, kuzushi (balance breaking), etc.
They asked me a bit more about my background. Then invited me to come back. They were trying to convince me to make more classes while I was in the area. I would have loved to but didn't have the free time. I had a great time there and would definitely like to visit there again if I have the chance. It was a great group of people there.”
In some way, we all train under Takeda Sōkaku’s watchful eye.
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Here are some video clips of Robert Waltzer demonstrating some applications of Classical techniques in his Queens Dojo ~ mentioned in the article.
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