This training touched on a lot of points that I find Aikido particularly useful. First off, let me say that I think Aikido is a horrible art to study if you want to learn how to fight. Aikido is not about fighting; it’s about peaceful resolution of conflict. It’s about facing some stress – a co-worker that you don’t get along with, someone who you don’t particularly like, an upcoming presentation – and finding a way to safely and respectfully deal with the stress. It’s really hard because my first response to stress is to run away and my second response is to get angry at it. I’m still learning how to approach it with self-respect and a calm mind.
Training at Sapporo Aikido Association brought that aspect of training to the forefront, because one of my training partners was very difficult to work with from my end. On top of that, at this dojo you train with the same person for an entire hour instead of switching partners with each technique, and I really prefer to switch partners so that I can experience a wide array of waza. It also meant that my partner and I worked together for an entire hour.
Let me clarify why this partner was so tough to work with. He was the type of Aikidoista that likes resistance and puts a lot of emphasis on the pain aspect of techniques. He was really good and very compelling, so his actions were crisp, effective, fast, and fluidly executed. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel much connection and so found myself running trying to just keep my body safe. The speed of his movements caused me to constantly try to keep my center underneath me and to keep my arms at safe angles. After an hour, my shoulders hurt and the locks on my wrists caused some discomfort.
Uncomfortable as it may be, it was good uke training. It made me stay safe and sharp, or else I could have walked away injured. I had to keep my center underneath me or my body was going to be yanked beyond comfort. Sadly, it made my time as nage a little harder and made it more difficult to focus on the techniques. I really wished that I could have rotated among partners for the hour. One part where I really filed with ukemi was that I did not do a good enough job of respectfully telling my partner that I need less intense training, but as mentioned earlier, this is one area where I still need a lot of training.
Thankfully, my partner for the second hour was gentler and easier to work with. If I go back to Sapporo I think that I’ll try another dojo, because I learn so much more with a new partner for each technique. The Sapporo Aikido Association is the biggest dojo in Sapporo and they have classes every day of the week at multiple locations in Sapporo, so this is the place to go if you want the largest dojo in the city. The students I worked were very good and from what I could gather the dojo teaches nice Aikido, though I felt a greater emphasis on technique over the metaphysical side of Aikido.
If you’re going to Sapporo and want to train there, here’s their website in English.