Weapons training outdoors puts you in closer harmony with nature. We have the ground under our feet from which we can draw energy. The tall oak trees help us develop the focus of our thrusts and strikes. The wind helps us exhale the breath power of Kokyu and inhale Ki down into our center, and the stars help give us focus and direction, essentially the same as they would for navigators. We also, as we follow the path, are navigators.
We practice the basic sounds of Kotodama, Su, O, A, E, I. Su represents the Hara, O the stomach, A the chest, E the throat and I the top of the head. The sounds are Soo, Oh, Ah, Ay, and EE. As we make the sounds, our energy moves upward from our center to the top of our head, and then back down to our Hara. As we train we pay attention to the directions of the compass and the location of the stars.
Above and to the north is the Big Dipper. I always see it when I stretch back during warmups before sunrise. To the south toward the horizon is Sirius, the dog star. It's the brightest star in the sky. Overhead is a very bright star called Capella, and to the northwest is the reddish star Aldebaran, the blood red eye of Taurus, the bull. Six bright stars - Aldebaran, Capella, Castor, Pollux, Procyon and Sirius - form a huge circle, centered on Betelgeuse. It's called the Winter Circle.
Venus and Jupiter glow brightly in the Southwestern sky.
We can draw new constellations using templates of weapons techniques. We can imagine ourselves as star formations while holding a weapons position. Using the imagination can be very helpful.
We pay close attention to our breathing. When we inhale, the air itself holds the Ki. When we exhale the sound merges with the sound of the wind through the branches. It seems that our breathing is in unison with the wind, or is the wind itself. As we move through the 31 and 13 jo kata, we can imagine the creation of new star formations. We feel a unity with the heavens.
We practice jo thrusts against the tree trunks, using gradual, deliberate contact to avoid harm to the tree. We connect with the energy of the tree by applying steady force to the thrust. We draw energy from the ground up through our center and extend it out through the jo. We use the leaves of a smaller holly tree to practice faster strikes and thrusts, stopping at the point of contact without harming the leaves. We practice Kokyu by pushing our sword hands (Tegatana) against the tree trunks. There is a picure of O Sensei practicing Kokyu with a tree in John Stevens' The Secrets of Aikido (see reading list). Trees produce great energy, and when we connect with them, it helps develop our ki.
The Bryan Park Dojo is our training ground surrounded by tall oak, and some hickory, trees. We often practice a running suburi in which we run from location to location along a 2.5-mile, figure-eight course and practice one of the seven bokken suburi at each stopping place. It can be a rigorous practice if we increase the pace of the run and the number of repetitions, or it can be more relaxed, with an easier jog and fewer repetitions. Our running is more like tracking, in which we feel the connection of our feet to the ground and remain aware of what's around us. Running should be a basic skill.
If we want to recover from a strenuous section of running, we can do the repetitions using deep, Sanchin breathing. We inhale through the nose as we bring the weapon up and exhale through the mouth as we slowly bring the weapon down into the strike or extend it into a thrust. We pull the air down into our center and push out the last ounce of air from our center. Breathing is important. Breathing is Kokyu. We pay close attention to it.
back to aikicommunications home page