The wave seminar - Aikido with Thorsten Schoo Sensei, by Colin Jowett

"I had the benefit of attending the Weekend seminar on Saturday and Sunday with Thorsten Schoo Sensei, 5° Seishinkai,Frankfurt, Germany at the Jikishin Dojo Auckland, Glenfield. For me, you can only be impressed by the depth and understanding of Schoo sensei’s grasp of the English language in describing some very complicated principles of his particular style of aikido.  Coupled with his beautifully, languid and fluid style of ryo-no-keiko (blending without force) I could only be impressed by the time we were fortunate enough to spend in his teaching.

To significantly paraphrase (far too many ideas to fully describe here) the theme of the weekend was ‘the wave’.  A beautiful metaphor for movement that is often used and was fully described by Schoo Sensei during the course of the two days.  Not only the idea of the wave arising in ones seika tanden, but also how this arising spreads through the whole body, encompasses the uke and transcends the space between the two to accomplish the inevitable outcome – the technique – as it were.  Once again, some common themes espoused by other accomplished teachers were discussed by Sensei.  The lack of power or tension in the upper body was primarily evident, as was the reduced focus on the intention of ‘throwing’, whereby throwing is an inevitable outcome of good movement and blending by both practitioners and is not, as sometimes become an issue with less capable Aikidoka such as myself, throwing as an end, or as a means to an end. 

I was particularly intrigued by sensei’s exploration of the space outside of both nage and uke and the axis of control.  As we learn in Aikido, the centre of the axis exists inside ourselves as nage, inside uke and also somewhere in the space in between, dependent upon the situation at hand.  But it was sensei’s description of this space, and the fleeting temporary nature of its arising and vanishing that intrigued me, in a very Zen way.  To try to put this into words I would say that my understanding is that the meeting or blending of the two practitioners creates a moment, a temporary condition where a space evolves between the two, physically separated from both, but connected energetically.  It is nages ability to feel this space that assists the wave of the technique to arise, drawing uke into the trough of the emerging wave, carrying them to its apex and releasing them back into a trough – which ultimately ends up in some form of ukemi, throw or potentially even pin. 

Most intriguing was Sensei’s contention that this space can be felt, even though technically it doesn’t really exist?  Confused?  As is so true with many things – it is easier to feel than understand, and easier to understand than explain – so forgive my stumbling attempts.  As I said to Sensei afterwards, I fear a lot of the principles he was describing went over my head, but I think I can paraphrase Sensei as saying, ‘There is no right or wrong time to learn these things, only the learning, and one can start the learning process at any time’, and probably should.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the weekend was removed from physical exertion or activity – far from it.  As waves come in two forms – constructive and destructive – we also explored the difference between the blending, arising and softly diminishing wave of ryo-no-keiko, with the swift sudden and inexhaustibly direct wave of go-no-keiko (as I understand it).  In short, as one reduces the magnitude of the wave, the length of application, and the movement of one’s own body, one gradually creates what appears to be a more ‘fierce’ representation of the wave form, which on the face of it can appear ‘harder’ or more forceful, but which from the inside is still no more or less than the motion of the wave, distilled into a shorter length and time.  It is something that I also feel that less experienced aikidoka, or non-aikidoka looking from the outside of the technique in, can mistakenly see as  forceful direct clashing.  It could not be further from the truth.  Just as the boat appears from the shore to be tossed around on the waves, from the boat, the sea is simply moving up and down – no more and no less.  Forcefulness and tension in fact hinder the wave, slow the movement and cause the ultimate arising and falling of the technique to be blocked, like a rock in the shallows (to continue the sea metaphor).  I could probably go on and on, but I suggest that you look up Schoo Sensei’s youtube postings (or even better order a DVD from Filip Marić) to get the correct descriptions direct from the source, if you are so inclined, rather than rely on my stumbling interpretation. 

I eagerly purchased a DVD and look forward to reviewing and reviewing Thorsten Schoo Sensei’s principles again and again as my understanding of Aikido grows, and I enjoyed every bit of the weekend immensely.
Finally, a word on the marvellous group of people I had the fortunate experience of training with.  Once again, and is often said but cannot be said too often, the weekend was a fabulous chance to meet with ‘old’ acquaintances, make new friends and enjoy training with a varied and eclectic group of martial artists from schools of Jiu-JItsu , Buikukai Aikido, Shinryukan Aikido, Jikishin Dojo Auckland, Ellerslie Aikido and Kyu Shin Do Aikido from around Auckland, and around New Zealand. As Schoo Sensei so aptly put it at the end of the weekend, “It has been a pleasure to train with a varied group of individuals united by a common interest in all things Aikido.  The meeting of such a varied group does not happen often and is not common, and you are fortunate in New Zealand to have so many people with an open heart who are willing to train together.  The spirit of Aikido is very much alive in New Zealand.”

Amen to that, long may it continue. Thank you immensely to Thorsten Schoo Sensei for taking time out of his life to share his experiences and his Aikido research with us; thank you immensely to Filip Marić for arranging the visit and taking the time out of his life to help us all grow into our Aikido skins; thank you to those organisers and providers behind the scenes who often remain unmentioned but do so much, Jane, Dave and Greg to name a few;  thank you to all the participants who made the weekend as enjoyable and frustration free as it was and thank you to the Haere Mai Taiko Drummers for putting on a gut trembling display of Taiko Drumming on Saturday evening!

I look forward to seeing you all again at the next one!
Colin Jowett"