Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Aiki Multi-Discipline Seminar Seattle 2011-2012

A special event inspired by the successes of the Aiki Expo a decade ago was held on the weekend of August 19-21 2011. Many teachers and students of a variety of differing arts came together from across the united States to share and compare ideas.

George Ledyard was the man who I believed organized the event. His is a sixth dan in his organization, but I believe he shows talent and insight even above this rank level. I first heard of him when Nick Lowry sent me a few of his DVDs on Kaeshi Waza and Connection. Both DVDs are excellent and helped reframe the problems in Aikido. He touched on both of these issues at the seminar as well. I got to get my hands on him a few times and he masterfully controlled my balance and structure. He lessons on preconnection intention and irimi will take me a long time to truly understand, but rest assured there is truth in his practice. He was also very critical of the way most schools of Aikido train their uke’s to attack. I agree with his ideas on this front too. Thank you Ledyard Sensei for putting this valuable training together. I will defiantly support this man’s work in the future.

Kimberly Richardson played host to the event at her dojo Two Cranes Aikido in Seattle, Washington. The dojo was a sculpture of the Aikido aesthetic. The people who built this dojo and train there should be proud of their accomplishment. Richardson Sensei was the unexpected surprise of the event for me. I have never seen a powerful female teacher in martial arts. She filled the room with her presence. She moved like effortlessly on the mat like a ballroom dancer. She moved so well I started questioning the ukes in her demonstration, because they were being easy on her. I am pretty sure she read my doubts and grabbed me and started moving me around the mat in a way I have never felt before. Her explanations of her thoughts were on a different realm of any teacher I have heard. I told her I really liked her and that I didn’t understand a thing she was saying – BUT I want to understand. I plan on making contact with her regularly so she might push me in unexpected directions. She was awesome.

George Popkin was almost exactly the opposite personality from Richardson Sensei. Popkin Sensei is a fireplug of a man, with a thick New York accent. He moved in the tell tale signature of some of the lineages of Daito Ryu. I enjoyed his work, and I really think many of my friends in the arts would really dig this guy and his work. One of my regrets was that I did not get to connect with him, as I would like to have had some of the deeper Daito Ryu conversations with him. I hope to see more of him in the future.

Systema, one of my new favorite martial arts was represented by a teacher named Kaizen. He took us through a series of yoga-like breathing, stretching and relaxation drills. I will admit at the time I did not really enjoy these segments as much as some of the other teachers, but already I have found myself thinking about the drills many times since I got home. Perhaps the lessons will be slower to unfold in my practice, but they have merit.

Toby Threadgill is someone I have been looking forward to meeting for a while. He was a pleasant and humorous teacher. He emphasized the still point, but I forgot the word he used for it. He also emphasized the importance of relaxation. I enjoyed his work.

Nick Ushin Lowry was not a featured teacher, but he is one of my artistic influences, and good friends. Besides bringing me to the event, he showed me some tastes of the things he is working on. Good creative stuff. I learned many lessons in our few days exploring and training together. I am always grateful for his company while walking down the path of budo.

The Enso Center hosted Nic, my traveling partner, and me in their home. They are amazing people. If you live in the Redmond/Seattle area you should drop by and train with the 4 generations of martial artists training in one dojo. They were some of the kindest, generous and devoted artists I have met in a long time. There dojo was magnificent on a scale that makes most of us humble dojo owners feel impotent. It is a temple to the martial practice, and to education process itself. I fell in love with the Mix family and I plan on getting back up to the Enso Center as often as I can.

It was a great time, with great friends, in a great part of the world. The teachers guiding our experience were all wonderful, and all the participants were a blast to get to know. About 20 percent of the people could have been one the featured instructors in their own right. My only small disappointment of the event is that the featured instructors often sat on the side talking and joking when it was not their turn to teach. I found this disappointing because I traveled to work out with these folks and to watch them try to solve the puzzles that the other teachers offered. I would have preferred to have had to chance to play with them all, even if we were practicing something that was outside their comfort zone.


  1. Wish I could have made it up to that seminar myself. The Mixes are wonderful folks and quality martial artists. The term from Threadgill sensei that you're thinkig of is じく [軸]. And it is critical to understand jiku if you're going to affect your partner.

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