Several forms of training are offered at Ei Mei Kan.
Practice itself begins with a formal bow. The teacher and students pay their respects to those who have gone before in the art by making a traditional Japanese bow to the front of the dojo, known as the kamiza. They then bow to each other, welcoming each other to practice with the Japanese phrase “onegai shimasu” — “I make a request,” or “please train with me.” The same formal bow is performed at the end of practice, at which time all participants thank each other with the phrase “domo arigato gozaimashita” — “thank you very much.” More details about Aikido ettiquette can be found on the resources page.
At the beginning of class, all participants warm up using various stretching and conditioning exercises. There is also a dedicated conditioning class once per week. Conditioning exercises strengthen the core of the body, promoting good health and ensuring enjoyable lifelong practice. After the conditioning phase of the class, training falls into two main types: body art and weapons practice.
Unarmed (empty hand) training is the main form of training at Ei Mei Kan. It emcompasses all levels of training. Beginners will start by learning the basic body movements of Aikido in both solo and partner practice. They will be introduced to the art of ukemi, which includes making safe falls to the ground, but — far more importantly — is the general skill of absorbing one’s partner’s motion with the whole of one’s body, thus preventing damage and injury.
The development of body art extends to the more intense practice and advanced techniques appropriate to senior students. Occasionally, body art classes will be combined with weapons classes (see below), as techniques for disarming an armed attacker also form part of the Aikido curriculum.
Bokken (wooden sword), Jo (staff) and Tanto (dagger)
Many Aikido movements (even those that are performed bare-handed) come from the use of the Japanese sword, or katana. The bokken is a wooden sword of the same shape as a katana, and solo and partner practice with the bokken is an integral part of the Aikido curriculum.
Another part of the currculum is training in the use of the jo, a 4-foot long wooden staff. As with the bokken, jo movements are present within Aikido body art. Jo movements are practiced both solo and as partner exercises.
As mentioned above, we also practice techniques for disarming an attacker who attacks with bokken, jo, or tanto (dagger).
Ei Mei Kan offers classes for children, who can also benefit from the practice of Aikido. As a natural consequence of the nature of Aikido practice, children develop:
- physical skills: overall body conditioning, including flexibility, coordination and balance;
- personal/mental skills: the traditional style of Aikido taught at Ei Mei Kan encourages ettiquette, self-discipline, focus and concentration; it enhances genuine self-confidence and awareness;
- social skills: as a natural consequence of the physical and mental development in Aikido, children learn to work in cooperation rather than competition, fostering self-awareness and respect for others and themselves.
Zazen is literally, and simply, “seated meditation”. It is the simple practice of sitting still and practising mindfulness: just like Aikido itself, it is a means of enhancing the spirit and studying one’s self. For this reason, Zazen practice is a pursuit that complements one’s Aikido practice.
Zazen is practised at Ei Mei Kan on a weekly basis, and concludes the Monday evening practice. One can also attend longer retreats known as sesshin, which can last between one and eight days.
Iai Battō Hō
Iai Battō Hō — “sword-drawing method” — is the traditional art of drawing, cutting with, and resheathing the Japanese sword. In contrast to the partner practice of Aikido, Iai Battō Hō consists mostly of the careful study of solo forms, or kata. In much the same way as Zazen supports Aikido practice, Iai Battō Hō is a practice separate from, but complementary to, Aikido.
The Iai Battō Hō syllabus at Ei Mei Kan includes the Shoden series of the Omori Ryū and the solo kata and kumitachi (partner exercises) of the Shindō Munen Ryū. A full syllabus can be found on the resources page, or by clicking here.