technique and we are not balanced, then this may be a statement that 'we are confused'. If we end up a technique and we are stable, grounded, and strong, then it is an entirely different statement. He gave the message to check our balance from left to right, from front to back, from top to bottom and from inside to outside.
For example, if we end up leaning and lop-sided to one side, if we are too far forward, if our stance is too top-heavy, or if we are thinking outside of ourselves (i.e., focusing on the UKE) before we check our inside and where we are coming from, then we are not as balanced.
Goldberg Sensei emphasized ending up most techniques in a 'Tadaaa!' pose where we finish strong and well-balanced. He talked about how you end up with someone tends to be what people remember most. For example, when performing IRIMI KOKYUHO, we practiced full extension of KI emphasizing extending our KI into the next room.
Aikido is a Dance of the Present
An advanced class during my visit was dedicated to multiple progressive exercises to practice (with music!) free-style techniques against multiple attackers or ‘RANDORI.’ The first exercise was to practice free-style “dancing” with ourselves only with an emphasis towards really being ourselves and flowing with the music.
Then we added in partners who would subtly 'block' our movements and we practiced flowing with and around those blocks. After watching my efforts at this exercise, Goldberg Sensei said, “Try it with your eyes closed.” I did this and he said that I flowed much better when my eyes were closed. With my eyes closed, I could more easily feel the energy within each movement and work with it. Instead of using pre-planned moves I knew (being in the past), or anticipating what would happen (being in the future), we practiced being present to the energy and, accordingly, acting intuitively.
From subtle blocking we moved to the exercise of more direct attacks while continuing the music (which at this point had progressed to a little faster and higher intensity music). We continued practicing first getting grounded with our own movements and then blending with our UKE. After a while it seemed that the UKE was not attacking but helping and there was less differentiation between the UKE and NAGE. Sensei Goldberg discussed that there really is not an UKE and NAGE when we truly blend and that we set up these roles mainly to practice.
Break Falling or 'Low Falling'
I attended another wonderful class dedicated to break falling from one of Goldberg Sensei’s instructors, Cyril Poissonnet (3rd degree black betl). Cyril provided a highly incremental step-by-step method to practicing break falls. First we started by ourselves with a practice of getting our hand in place and slowing down the impact when we went over. We gradually kept increasing the level of difficulty starting with going over a person on the floor, then over a person who was on their knees, then moving faster into the falls, then using an extra mat, and eventually into a full-fledged break fall with KOTEGAESHI on the TATAMI dojo floor.
Cyruk emphasized two points about break falls: 1) Use your hand not to slap out but to slow down the fall, and 2) keep the head as low to the mat as possible since the distance one falls is related to how high the head is. Sometimes break falls are called ‘high falls’ but he called them 'low falls' because the idea is to fall as little as possible from the ground by keeping our head as low to the ground as possible, ideally just a few inches from the ground.
Thank you very much to Goldberg Sensei and to all those at Aikido of San Diego! My visit was very enjoyable and helpful. I hope sharing some of these ideas may be useful for others.
Click HERE to learn more about David Golderberg Sensei and Aikido of San Diego.
In August, while at a business conference, I attended six classes at Aikido of San Diego - a dojo run by chief instructor, David Goldberg Sensei. WOW! What an inspirational experience. The following represent some of my learnings.
Stances Say Something About Oneself
Sensei Goldberg reiterated many times the importance of our stances and how this says something about ourselves. If we end up a