Ai – harmony

I was in a bookstore in Frankfurt and saw a book about Vietnamese food. They have a quote: "Ăn trông nồi, ngồi trông hướng." They translated into German. I asked my German friend, what that German sentence means and how he understands that sentence. No surprise, he told me that the translated version implies during the meal, you should pay attention to eating, enjoy the food. However, the meaning of that quote is different. It's about caring people enjoying the meal with us.

The same situation in Aikido. We are practicing Aikido. People can talk a lot about Aikido, but during training, people forget that they are doing Aikido. Many times!

AI means harmony. We have many ways to explain harmony. For me, I try to become the one with my partner, either in Uke or Tori role. For doing that, please don't run away from your partner, don't disconnect the contact between us.

I was in training with a new beginner, and whenever I did something, she seemed to be scared and wanted to "run away", even when she was in Uke role. I understand her fear, but uke means you are "attacking", there is no meaning if you already run before you finish your attack! I always tell my beginner partners that in Aikido, we don't hit people hard, we are not only training techniques but more important that we are also practicing our mind not to hurt people. I had that fear when I practiced before with my teacher Tor Anton in Sentrum Aikido, or with Kuribayashi sensei before. They really freaked me out, and it's not easy for me to complete any technique happily 🙂 Training is one way to remove the inside fear, Bjørn Eirik sensei repeatedly tell us in his seminars.

In the 2016 Norwegian summer camp, Nakamura Nobuaki sensei showed us a version of torifune, with Uke really relies on Tori. That exercise not only helps tori relax their body, shoulder but also helps both Tori and Uke build trust between them.

Of course, being the one is not easy. I have been trying to do that. I know people have taken years and years to do that. But at least, if you keep that mind when you are training, that we are doing AIkido.

No information at the contact point

In a recent seminar in Oslo, Kuribayashi Shihan talked about the emptiness inside our body. We need to have contact outside, but if there is nothing inside, the uke has nothing to attack. I have the same feeling many times when I grasp my teacher, Tor Anton. I have tried to find out which point I could rely on, or connect to his center, but I lost. It might be because I was trying too much 🙂 As a friend told me, stop trying, just do it. Anyway…

Habitually, when a tori is grasped, for example, in katate-dori, the first move is from the wrist. But then the uke knows that the tori wants to go from that, and he just continues the attack. In the end, both are fighting, and we don’t want that in Aikido. That’s why no information at the contact point is critical.

But then, how to move? Moving from the center, I am sure that you have heard that many many times. And this fantastic video from Yoshihito Shibata sensei explains very well.

(When I saw the face of the uke in this video, I could not stop laughing, because I recognized myself there, exactly the same feeling when I tried to push Tor Anton.)

When I first heard about no information at the contact point, it confused me. On one side, we are told that we need to keep contact, and we can read our partner from that. On the other hand, we don’t want to give information at the contact point. Hah… my head was spinning 🙂 I also had another failed assumption: don’t move the contact point. Failed. We still need to move, but the importance is how to move, and where is the source of the movement.

So:

  1. Move. But from your center. Don’t start moving from the contact point.
  2. When you are moving, still need to connect to your partner center.

Don’t do complicated things. Just a simple movement, but move correctly. By doing this, I am pretty sure that it will give a little or no information at the contact point. And by practicing this, I believe it helps to build the inside emptiness. Enjoy the video, I would love to hear your experiences after trying.

One way to relax when practising Aikido

Sometimes I sit down and think how to explain to my friends to relax when practising Aikido. It’s not easy. I can repeat hundreds or thousands times that they need to relax their body, their shoulders, etc. But how to give them the feeling of relaxing. It’s still something I want to learn myself and to help other people.

It’s important for me to remember when Aikido started, between the life and the dead” – that’s one thing Tor Anton shared me after a training.

He illustrated with the feeling of using a very very sharp knife (that’s why he likes to make knives, I guess?!?!). The difference is that he’s explaining from the Tori side, not from the Uke side. Suddenly, I got the feeling of how to relax when practising Aikido!

Tor Anton Gaarder - my favourite teacher at Sentrum AIkido OsloTor Anton Gaarder is the technical leader in Sentrum Aikido – Oslo, where I have been practising. He is currently holding 4.dan rank after 24 years of training.

 

Holding a very sharp knife in your hand doesn’t mean that you are killing people. When you have that kind of knife, you don’t need to use too much strength for cutting. A minimal cut can hurt your partner already. In that case, it helps both Tori and Uke recognising the danger of the situation and not resisting each other. From the Tori side, the importance is keeping you a peaceful emotion. If you want to fight, to kill your partner, your mind cannot relax, then the body will become stiff and you start using too much strength. If you can put your partners in an awkward position and make them laugh at the sight, then you are stepping into the relaxation. Using a sword or a knife is not for killing, as I wrote about sword brings life after a training with my teacher in Seishinkai Aikido – Thorsten Schoo.

Of course, there are still many other things besides that. Still, need to connect the hands, the arms, the knees… with the whole body, not only moving your wrist with that knife. But is that a wonderful way to learn how to relax?

Don’t like knife? 🙂 OK, another way. Now imagining that you are holding a brush for calligraphy. You cannot hold very tight and use too much muscle for draw a nice writing. Be soft, be gentle. That’s the feeling. Again, don’t try to fight against your partner. Instead, being harmonised. Is that the aim of Aikido 🙂

Learning Norwegian

In this post, I am not intending to show you how to learn a new language. Just want to share you some good resources for learning Norwegian.

But should I learn Norwegian?

A big YES, even Norway is one of the few countries where people can speak English fluently, just like their mother language – Norwegian. That’s why I have some friends who have been living in Norway for six, seven years but they rarely use Norwegian. Just English. And they blame to Norwegian: it’s their fault to keep talking to me in English 🙂  Ok, that part we can have fun later.

Besides, things have been becoming more difficult in Norway if you don’t speak Norwegian. Due to the recent oil crisis, the unemployment has increased. Without knowing the language, it’s not easy to get a job, if not saying impossible in many sectors. When I moved to Norway, my dad told me, try to learn their language first, if you can join the conversation, you will be a part of the society. But I didn’t follow that wise advice!

Well… I did complete some Norwegian levels. However, I have to admit that it was not my first priority. As an international Master student, I could not have permission to be in a Norwegian class right in the first semester at the University of Oslo! What a rule!!! I was waiting until the next semester for starting. For new students coming to Norway, I would advise you NOT to wait. There are multiple options for you. It’s expensive (welcome to Norway!!!) but you should invest your time and money into it.

OK, how do I start?

It depends on how you come to Norway.

There are more and more young people coming to Norway for studying. As a student, you can learn Norwegian in university for free. But again, as I wrote above, I could not join to Norwegian classes from the first semester. I hope they really consider to change the rule.

If you are coming to Norway as a member of a family, you will need to pay for Norwegian courses, unless your sponsor has a permanent visa already.

The cheapest way is learning online.

  • NTNU has a free Norwegian course. It’s from the beginning. I have some friends who practised with this course first, and they were really good when joining our class at university.
  • Another free source is Karin’s YouTube channel. She explains Norwegian by English, so it’s really good for starting. In one video, she said there are some people complaining her, saying that Norwegian don’t speak as slow as she does in her videos. Her response is that she’s trying to help people to learn, so she is speaking as clear as possible. Helping, teaching are her main purpose, not showing off how fast she can speak. I totally agree with her. I still have trouble myself when hearing Norwegian speaks together, I cannot follow 100%, so I could understand both points of view. But again, Karin’s channel is really a good resource.
  • Norwegian Teaching – NoTe with Karense Foslien. Both paid and free. Karense offers online courses, which are cheaper than other schools. The good thing is that her courses are certified, so you can use credits for permanent residency application. Unfortunately, I neither have the first-hand experience with her courses nor have any friend who is her student. But I just followed her YouTube channel, and it’s really practical. Pay attention that she is speaking Norwegian in her YouTube videos, so you should have basic skills already. Karense also speaks clearly, so you will not have any trouble to hear her.

Another good option is having fun with volunteers.

  • The Norwegian public library, Deichmanske bibliotek, has been holding meetings for people to practise Norwegian together. Check it here.
  • Red Cross also has similar meetings. Many times the meetings happen in locations of the Norwegian public library.
  • Working in volunteer organisations. I highly recommend this way. Since I have joined to Aktivitetshuset-Prindsen, friends there helps me a lot in practising Norwegian. It’s not only a good way to learn Norwegian practically, but it also helps you to expand your networks. In addition, it can show your potential employer that you are trying to integrate into the Norwegian society. One of my Norwegian friends said that her company doesn’t employ someone who has not any activity besides studying. If you are working in a volunteer organisation, remember to mention that in your CV, even it’s not related to the job you are applying for.

Last but not least, if you practise any kind of sport, try to communicate with people there. In my training sessions at Sentrum Aikido, I ask people to talk Norwegian with me. I guess they need to speak slower, use simpler words. Few times they needed to repeat. But thanks to my friends, it’s really helpful 🙂

So, good luck friends. Those are some helpful resources for learning Norwegian. For myself, learning a new language is not easy, but I am trying to make it fun 🙂

P.S: I thought German can use English very good as Norwegian too. But when I temporarily lived in Frankfurt in few months, I really had trouble in communicating with people. Few times I received phone calls in my Aikido dojo, when I asked them if they could speak English, either they dropped the call, or just spoke very little. I went to supermarkets or a cafeteria, I asked in English and they answered me in German! Might be I need to learn German too 😉

Norske bokstavene vi nesten aldri bruker

Rart! Det er min første tanke. Hvis vi aldri bruker de bokstavene, hvorfor bør vi studere dem? Men Karense Foslien at Norwegian Teaching er en veldig god lærer, kanskje har hun en grunn for det. Vi får se!

Ah ha. Etter det første minuttet, erkjenner jeg at jeg var feil. Denne videoen er veldig nyttig. Plutselig husker jeg at tre år siden, jeg snakket med en venn i Drøbak. Jeg stod foran Drøbak Akvarium, men på en eller annen måte, kunne jeg ikke fortelle ham hvor jeg var. Fy skam!

Så, la oss studere de norske bokstavene vi nesten aldri bruker 🙂 Jeg også anbefaler deg å abonnere YouTube kanalen sin eller på Facebook. Hun lager mange videoer der.

Glad læring og lykke til!

Palm contact point

We talk a lot about the contact point in Aikido. It helps both partners to read each other. But a grip is… not just a grip. The key is the palm contact point, at least to my Aikido knowledge up to now. In training, one of my teachers, Birger Sørensen, always emphasizes the palm contact point, even he can also use any part of his body for contacting. But that’s another story.

So, what is a good palm contact point?

Try to grasp your partner’s wrist. Starting with your palm. Then the following order: the little finger, the annulary, the middle finger, and keep your index finger free. You can use your thumb too, firmly not tightly, but do NOT start with your index finger. Take a look at this video from Christian Tissier Shihan. I will use this video again for the Ikkyo technique, but this time, just pay attention in the first few seconds at his index finger, you will see what I mean.

Why should you pay attention to this way of grasping?

Well… for your softness, and of course contacting 🙂 You can try yourself with Ikkyo Undo warming up exercise. How do you grasp your hand? Do it slowly, try to feel the press, which way you are using less power for getting the same effect: grasping your hand starting with the index finger or the little finger? Which way can you read more information?

Another test, still with Ikkyo Undo warming up exercise. Let’s say you are using the right hand to grasp the left hand. Now pay attention to the right wrist when you grasp differently. Which way your right wrist bend more? You want to keep your wrist in the natural position, not too much bending, don’t you 🙂

Practicing

I have practiced this very slow and tried to feel the contact as much as possible. Myself and with partners. Anytime I want to grasp, I try to use my hand like in the above order. No matter in a static position or a dynamic movement. It helps me to have a better attack to my partner, as a Uke. From a Tori side, it’s much easier to take his / her hand off the grasp, for example in Katatedori Ikkyo technique.

Attention

I also had trouble with this kind of grip for few weeks when I started. Because I keep my index finger free, when my partners did techniques quickly, it’s bent reversely. During the training, I didn’t pay much attention. But after that, it hurt. Not much, but I could feel it. So, make an agreement with your partners, again, practice slowly to avoid any injury.

Enjoy training!