Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hard, soft aikido

Ruth Peyser has always been one of my favorite instructors at the NY Aikikai. Her classes are dynamic, fun and instructive. A pretty good combination.

Ruth's aikido has a certain quality to it. It is generally very soft and clear, but there is a power there that can be sensed under the surface. Sort of like a muscle car cruising at 30mph. Though it isn't being utilized at that moment, one can feel the power under the accelerator.

Her ukemi is also first rate. She's not one for flashy break falls or even those super soft rolls that some others have, but she always keeps her center under her and keeps the connection to nage. Of all the things I try to emulate from her technique, her simple ukemi for, say, ikkyo is the biggest challenge.

It must be something with me, but I generally prefer ladies' aikido. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think it has something to do with understated elegance, as opposed to over-the-top force. Of course, this is a generalization which is not close to true in all cases. All the same, the few female instructors at the dojo never disappoint.

The other day, Noriko Oba taught a class. Though she is eminently qualified, she rarely teaches. Well, that was also a treat. I tried to take full advantage of the opportunity by asking a lot of questions, and I'm glad I did. Another class of grace and poise.

It's not that I don't like hard aikido, I do. But sometimes it's very helpful to ease things up a bit and really concentrate on the subtleties of aikido, instead of only "effective technique," which is a misnomer. It's those subtle qualities, refined to a high level, that make the techniques effective.


Daniel Wilson said...

Hi there, i've yet to comment on any of your posts - so here it goes, the beginning!

Anyway, I would have to say that I agree. Strong aikido does nothing to impress me, rather it does quite the opposite. A rather finessed aikido requires a great attention to detail and off-balance in order to make it work, thus it is the type of aikido that I inevitably attempt to emulate. Because, after all, if you can finesse and master off-balance, then you can produce power when needed.

Chris Weller said...

I miss her classes too. Maybe I can find a way to get to her weekday class this summer.

I was lucky to get to train with her last week. Ruth is always helpful and encouraging and spot-on with her advice. And when she throws me, I naturally fall and roll just right.

uchi deshi said...

I, too, think that women's Aikido is often better. I think it may be because women don't generally rely on strength, the way that men often do. Instead, they have to get be technically sound. In addition, their blends tend to be better, and subtler.

AikiPenguin said...

That's exactly what I was trying to get at!