The Application of Soft Power

This year’s BAA Summer School was held St Mary’s School , Menston, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, from Saturday 23rd to Monday 25th July 2016.
This year’s line up of coaches were Bob Jones 7th Dan, Mark Aldridge 5th Dan, Garrett Baxter 4th Dan, Neville Coupland 3rd Dan Yoshinkan and our headline guest from the Japan Aikido Association Yoshiomi Inoue 7th Dan.

The programme provided training for Juniors, Youth and Adult members of the Association and once again included a CoachingCourse and examination for both BAA members and BAA Associate members.

The School was well attended, largely by members from the North but also by our Tallaght Tomiki Aikido Ryu club based in Dublin and members from the Tanseikan, Gosh-inaikikwai and the Thanet Judo &Aikido Club in the South.

Bob Jones, explored the theme of the relationship between judo and aikido in the execution of throws (nage). Giving examples from both disciplines, he emphasised the necessity of closing the distances in randori for the vital completion of decisive throwing techniques.Mark

Mark Aldridge and Garrett Baxter provided sound senior tutorials for the Koryu Dai Ni and the Koryu Dai Go respectively, continuing the BAA’s tradition of maintaining expertise in the kata developed by Hideo Ohba Shihan, Tomiki Shihan’s close student and collaborator in the development of Tomiki Aikido. Although largely neglected by both the JAA and SAF since Ohba Shihan’s death, it is in the UK, Europe and also by clubs belonging to the Karl Geiss lineage in the USA where these Koryu Kata are still considered an important part of the Tomiki Aikido canon. Both Mark and Garrett clearly demonstrated the clarity and command of understanding that will enable us to pass this expertise on to our next Tomiki Aikido generation.

Neville Coupland, whose club is now an Associate of the BAA, provided members with the opportunity to explore an illustrative repertoire of Yoshinkan Aikido techniques. His deep stances and effective kuzushi enabled students to see both the stylistic differences in interpretation and the basic underlying principles that unite all aikido lineages. His technique was clearly appreciated and enthusiastically received by all presentand we hope to Neville again at other BAA schools in the future.

By far the bulk of the three day training programme was undertaken by Yoshiomi Inoue Sensei, making his first official visit at our invitation on behalf of the Japan Aikido Association. It was indeed fitting that Inoue Sensei should join us to teach at our Summer School in this our 50th Anniversary Year, as Riki Kogure Sensei from Kenji Tomiki’s Waseda Aikido Club, had played an important part in encouraging and assisting in the BAA’s foundation. Maintainingthis close friendship and technical exchange between theJAA and the BAA is an important policy principle of the BAA, which the current Chairman, Paul Wildish, the CEO, Bob Jones and the BAA Executive are committed to continuing.

This was Inoue Sensei’s first visit to the BAA but we are hopeful this will not be his last,
for over the three days he engaged the participants in a way that while challenging their practice gave them a rich and enjoyable experience that brought warm smiles to everyone’s faces. Inoue Sensei is the antithesis of severe in demeanour and throughout his seminars maintained constant good humour and warm encouragement to all
he interacted with. Indeed if a nickname was appropriate he would have to be dubbed ‘the Smiling Sensei’.

However, behind the smiles, unassuming outward character and by Western standards small stature, there resides an expert practitioner with a comfortable command of technique. It is not until you take hold of his wrist or attempt an atemi and find your
balance drifting out of control, seemingly by its own volition that you realise the subtlety of his technique. He is an embodiment of relaxed soft power, which was essentially the theme running through all his seminars over the course of the three days.

Inoue Sensei began his seminars by demonstrating how by sinking one’s posture, keeping relaxed knees, straight back and relaxed balanced posture one can resist attack by a simple basic upward handblade response. To emphasise the point he demonstrated that this could be done as easily on one foot as on two, by completing the
same movement whilst balancing nonchalantly on one leg!

You can see this manoeuvre clearly on Shizentai BAA video, our YouTube channel where
clips from all his seminars are posted.

Throughout the course of his seminars he demonstrated that by using the movements of the Shichi-no-hon-no-kuzushi, the basic balance breaking exercises and executing them with a turn of the hips and a lightness of touch, one can destroy one’s opponents
posture without resort to strength or effort. Simple enough to state and something that we all know we should be doing, but many of the participants realised just how tense they were by comparison to Inoue Sensei’s seemingly easy deflections and redirection of
uke’s energy. It really was an object lesson in relaxing the body and as they say ‘going with the flow’.

The next unifying principle in his seminars, was that having diverted uke’s energy and then taken a light but secure grip one should concentrate on controlling the elbow. Continuing all the component movements of the technique in a curving arc that takes the elbow beyond uke’s point of balance until he or she cannot stop themselves falling. A lesson enjoyed with wry smiles by all those he invited to be uke or practised with!

Inoue Sensei leads the Referee division of the JAA and although a business man, teaches Tomiki Aikido virtually every day of the week in Yokohama and Tokyo.

His own dojo is located in the Yokohama area and is open most evenings in the week, teaching small classes to juniors and adults. Should anyone in the BAA wish to train with Inoue Sensei in Japan, he kindly offered to help set up a programme for them at
his dojo and others in the Tokyo area.