Goto Sensei stopped us halfway through morning weapons class. We had been practicing Ken Suburi #1, the most basic and fundamental move in our weapons curriculum. Some would say it's the strike on which the entire superstructure of Iwama Aikido is built. In other words: its' important; and we weren't getting it.
He said we were forgetting to create a space at the end of the strike to sink, expand, and let our spirit radiate out. He was right. Often at the end of the strike we would just rush into the next strike like aiki-automatons, full of mechanical motion but without spirit or martial presence.
Goto Sensei drew a metaphor. "Imagine," he said, "that you are by a pond and you have just thrown a large rock out over the surface of the water. The rock hits and makes a splash, sometimes the splash continues with a column of water rising and then falling in the center, but it's still the splash. But then, after the rock sinks and the splash subsides there is still something happenning: ripples radiate out in circles."
Most westerners would probably look at the still finish position, as in the photo, and say, "nothing is happening." But this would be to miss some very important action. Goto Sensei's spirit and presence radiated out from the still posture in powerful waves of ki and focused awareness just as though they were ripples in a pond.
So we went back to practicing ken suburi #1, taking care to make the strike and then be the ripples as they radiated out into the dojo space.
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