This week, I’m in the Czech province of Jizerka training on the 24th Shikon Jizerka course hosted by Shikon Czech and it’s Chief Instructor Ondra Musil 7th Dan in Karate and 6th Dan in Aikido who along with Steve Rowe 8th Dan in Karate and Tai Chi Sifu and Martin Gatter 7th Dan Karate and Tai Chi Sifu from Shikon International have been the teachers.
With around 80 participants mainly from the arts of Karate, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu and Aikido, there has been a range of diverse skills to sample and learn from.
Today is Wednesday and we’re half way through the course. My training plan for the week has been simple:-
7:00 Tai Chi (Chi Gong, Long Form and Long Boxing)
9:00 – 10:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)
10:30 – 12:00 Aikido
13:00 Lunch / Enjoying the countryside / Free Practice
15:00 – 16:30 Tai Chi (Long Boxing, Fa Jing, Dao Lu)
16:30 – 18:00 Aikido
19:00 – Dinner / Enjoying the Countryside / talking about all things martial and more free practice
So the training plan itself was easy, right. Okay it was and is tiring I have to admit. When I decided to come to Jizerka earlier in the year, I committed to myself that I would make the most out of the training experience and learn as much as I could. So many good things shown and explained, shown again and clarified, it felt like at times my head was about to explode.
I’ve tried to train as a beginner with no preconceived ideas, actions or knowledge whilst training. It’s been hard to do and sometimes I haven’t managed to, these times have generally been easy to spot, it’s when I’ve been doing it badly. It’s been oddly satisfying though when I’ve have got it right. Some light bulb moments and several real “oh yeah, I get it now” moments, followed quickly by “Doh, it’s so easy to understand, why did it take me so long.” Simple Young Jedi, it’s all down to the key principles, I was told more than once. Principle #1 – Feet, Principle #2 – Posture, now use them. Steve Rowe is my teacher and his long term students know his style of teaching very well. No false, “that was great” or “You’re awesome” or anything like that. In fact the only time Steve will say something like that is when one has been crapper than usual and he’s taking the mickey out of you. Even he’s excelled himself this week with some of his comments and insightful remarks. Many of us attending are long term Martial Arts coaches and practitioners in our own right. Yet I can’t begin to count how many times, I’ve heard a ‘Steveism’ and some attempted correction at whatever we needed to work on. I snuck off before lunch for a sneaky bit of training with someone on some Springing hands work and Long Boxing, from about 300m away, Steve spotted an error from my training partner and sent someone over to stay “stop sticking your butt out and stand straight.”
Remember those days as a kid and being told to sit still at school, or was that just me? Anyway today Martin led us in some Neigong or standing post work. Simple stuff, again! Or so it seemed at a superficial level. Hold five postures for two minutes each. Oh yes, there are a few things to consider when you do them. Stand tall, spine straight, start spiralling from the feet and carry it on up and around the body, heighten your awareness, map your body, be sensitive and be aware. I managed about three out of the five, but then lost focus. Only one person said that they managed all those things throughout the 10 minutes.
I’ve seen some demonstrations of Aikido over the years and I must admit to not been hugely impressed with it as as art. My mistake, big mistake. The Aikido classes I’ve taken part in have all been by Ondrej Musil a 6th dan in Aikido or one of his senior students. The classes were filled with Czech students and one English person, me. Consequently all have been taught in Czech. So listening to instructions was definitely out, but I had to focus very closely to see what was being demonstrated as both Tori and Uke and then work to replicate it with my partners. I was able to cheat a little bit as many of the a few Japanese terms used in Aikido are also used in Karate, such as Maai, Kuzushi and Atemi Waza. It made me realise that although I was learning this way, only learning visually was very difficult for me. But I muddled through and most things I managed by watching and best of all trying the techniques. The moral is, you can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.
It’s been good to see so many students finish the formal practice and then find some space in the great outdoors to continue their practice. My last training session tonight, after dinner, but still in the restaurant, I asked “Wasn’t sure how to do this technique, is this correct?” From the laughter from my colleagues it would appear not, Martin Gatter, didn’t laugh, well not out loud anyway, his brow however does the same as a ‘Steveism.’
Key points for me
– When the teacher says do ‘x’ technique, don’t ask how many times, keep going until you’re told to stop.
– It’s reminded me of how much we should listen and watch our teachers and actually try to do what they say.
– Be aware of your body
– You can learn by talking, you can learn by watching. But the best way is to learn by doing and making mistakes and doing it again and again.
Happy training. Time to get ready for dinner before I do some training.