INTERVIEW WITH CERTA SHIHAN IN PRAGUE [1/3]
1. Sensei, you are an expert in Martial Arts, with rich experience in different styles and schools. Prior to starting in Daito Ryu, you dedicated many years to Aikido. Could you tell, how did you make a decision to start studying Aikido?
A. I was 15years old, when I started in Martial Arts, being under big influence of the first movies about Kung-Fu. During those days "Kung-Fu movies" were swiping the West (1965).I have chosen AIKIDO ( By the way, those days it was hard to find Aikido Dojo, but thanks to my luck there was one of the first opened in Italy Aikido dojos in Milan.) because it appeared to be very elegant and effective system of self-defense. Two things attracted me: 1 - It was effective self-defense; 2 - beauty of the movements. In addition, I must say, I was at that time skinny teenager, but wanted to be better developed and better looking physically. Also, must say, those years (1965-1970) Aikido was a little more "rough" in comparison with what is being practiced today. The moves were shorter, more rigid, immobilizations, projections and throws were performed, what you would call "to the end". All of that attracted me. I was dreaming about becoming a samurai and interest in wearing hakama from first days was feeding my teenager dreams. Obviously I was fascinated with the "samurai's world" and Japan as a whole. Next year I started also my training in Karate, so that to acquire additional skills and widen my horizons in Martial Arts.
2. What is Daito-ryu?
A. Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu (The Great Eastern School of Aikijujutsu) is, in Japan, considered to be as one of the most ancient and noble schools of bujutsu (martial arts). It was founded in 1087 by Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1045-1127), a samurai of the Minamoto clan. It is a koryu, that is to say, an "ancient school", recognized by the two main koryu associations that preserve and perpetuate these arts as "national cultural treasures". Daito-ryu teaches a complete martial art, its technical program is concentrated on fighting techniques called aikijutsu, which include kicks, punches, elbow strikes, throws to the ground, strangle holds, joint levers, and pressure on the human body´s vital points. In parallel there is the practice of techniques with weapons that historically were studied by the samurai.
3. Would you say there is something unique about Daito-ryu?
A. Certainly it is unique in its long history. When we study the origins of the School we can see how the techniques were initially practiced by the samurai of the Minamoto clan, followed by the Takeda clan, and finally the Aizu clan. Therefore the Daito-ryu has been created through the experience of numerous battles sustained by these clans in various periods, throughout Japanese history, through continuous wars. This millenary history has incredibly enriched the store of fighting techniques of the school, creating a martial art that is unique in its field, with over 150 techniques of jujutsu.
4. Sensei, could you offer couple of comments on Aiki principle in Daito-Ryu?
A. Sure. In Abashiri the Aiki principle was a search for method of unification, blending with the movements of the attacker / uke. Simplified example of aiki: when opponent is pushing - you move back and pull; when he is pulling - you move forward and push similar in cases with katatedori, munedori, eridori. This is why the concept of Aiki is most important for understanding Ju [in Japanese refers to pliancy and ability of body and mind to adopt to circumstances spontaneously] There is nothing mystical here, connected with a concept of spirit.
5. What does a typical lesson of Daito-ryu look like - is it similar to other martial arts classes?
A. If we really look for a similarity with another martial arts class, then perhaps we might find it in a typical lesson of karate (shotokan). In this art, each lesson begins with the fundamentals (kyon), then continues with the study of the forms (kata) and concludes with combat practice (kumite). Obviously with us it is a little different; every lesson begins with the Aikitaiso (Aiki warm-up for the muscles) which in reality is the study of the basic atemi practiced initially in a softer manner and then progressively practiced more energetically (warming-up). Then we proceed with the study of a Kajo (series of techniques), these are executed in pairs but, as in a kata, each technique is preordained and fixed. The lesson concludes with the study of the applications of the techniques studied in the Kajo, for example the oyowaza i.e. applications of the basis techniques. The applications of the techniques are always studied in a modern context, that is, as personal defense.
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