Reflections on Encounters with Boyet Sensei

The Practice is the Purpose; Reflections on Encounters with Boyet Sensei

By Rob Darmour, May 2018

The first time I met Boyet Sensei he was wearing a black, rabbit felt hat with a wide brim and no decoration other than a simple black band chasing around the crown.  A bold yet natural choice for the cold weather of Vancouver BC in February 2017.

Attending his seminar at Mountain Coast Aikikai caused my practice to shift. Until then, I was practicing the techniques being taught.  A beginner working at the surface.

My eyes absorbed, my mind decoded and my body moved.

What I found in Boyet Sensei’s teaching was essential, direct and fluid. A bold simplicity that resonated with my creative values.

“You do not have time” he said while we worked through a shomen bokken technique.  He emphasized how important one, clear movement was in meeting the attack of an opponent’s weapon.  

“you will be dead,” he finished, underscoring that speed was a matter of timing and reduction to essential movement.  It was not a matter of more, but rather less.

His lesson was simple; 9 words, one clear meaning.  It catalyzed my aikido practice with new perspective because he taught through the language of my creative values. I left the dojo in Vancouver excited to put the weekend’s learnings to daily practice.  

It had triggered the shift, but the avalanche was still to come.

A year later, March 2018, Portland was emerging from Winter’s slumbering rhythm. A bouquet of purple tulips rested with a wild, natural gesture on the kamiza at Multnomah Aikikai.  Boyet Sensei was in town to teach a seminar at my home dojo.

I had just come off a rather taxing period in my career that ended abruptly. I was feeling listless and disinterested creatively.  A problem for a designer and perfect timing for the kind of provocation a mentor can inspire.

I spent the whole weekend on the tatami, eager to absorb all the aikido I could.  To my surprise, what I learned illuminated a path beyond the dojo and helped to reignite my dimming passion for design.

Once again, Boyet Sensei was direct in his practice.  No fluffy stuff, no extra movement; all practicality, applied simply.

A year before I was encountering all of it for the first time; I was just happy to get a signal.  This time, I was tuning into the finer lessons that come with familiarity.

“Copy from someone better than you until you have made it your own, then find another person.” He lectured between techniques.

I thought about all the senior students and instructors I had learned from.  Gweyn’s ukemi, Bill’s kokyu-ho, Thoms Sensei’s tenshi-nage. But had I committed myself to it?  Had I owned my practice? Had I possessed my creative identity?

“You do not have time” he said about the little extra movements he was trying to prune out of his students. Once again, those five words echoed the clear message that changed my mindset a year prior.

The way that Boyet Sensei demonstrated techniques struck like a bolt of lightning.  Just enter, turn, and there it is; Ikkyo. The clarity of movement leaves nothing mysterious, and the reduction reveals beauty.

He spoke in familiar language.

“You must be beautiful, and to be beautiful, it must be simple.” Boyet Sensei explained during the Sunday morning Iaido class.  “it may take fifteen, twenty years, but if you train, you will find it.”

In the creative arts, it is no different.  Form follows function. Less is more. But getting there is a messy exercise with a lot of wasted movement.  Out of the process emerges the value.

Boyet Sensei reminded me that the practice is the purpose.  Beauty will come.

This is a lesson every creative from Dietre Rams to Paul Motian and the Eames have tried to pass on.  Owning one’s way of being, their “do” is born in practice. Beauty is a result, not a destination.

Boyet Sensei had connected my aikido practice with my creative values.  His teaching changed the way I do both. It guided me below the surface and gave me a deeper perspective of my aikido journey.  It made my practice personal and I felt recommitted.

I try to remind myself to find the simple path and follow it boldly.  In ikkyo or in life.

Rob Darmour is a 5th kyu member of Multnomah Aikikai

Video below produced by Sam J. Brimhall on the occasion of Multnomah Aikikai's March 2018 seminar with Didier Boyet Sensei. Published with permission.

Iaido montage from D. Boyet Sensei seminar at Multnomah Aikikai 2018: 14” by Sam J. Brimhall

Last week, stepping off a curb, I lost my footing...

The dictionary defines balance as "the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling.” This is probably the best definition to describe what happened to me.

Shortly after joining the dojo (Aikido Multnomah Aikikai, in Portland Oregon), Suzane Van Amburgh Sensei held several Saturday workshops on ”How to fall”. These sessions included instruction on how to keep your balance and how to fall safely. Well, I attended several of these workshops just to gain knowledge on the subject. They were very informative and you got to practice keeping your balance while learning how to fall safely. Suzane Sensei made it fun and safe under her watch full eye. At the age of 70, like me, one needs to be very careful with falls, which can lead to being immobilized temporary or permanently. Knowing this, I have been practicing keeping my balance and falling safely.

stepping off a curb.JPG

Last week, stepping off a curb, I lost my footing while skidding on a stone, twisted my leg and found myself heading for the concrete pavement. Suddenly, all that practice kicked in! I kept my balance, not just once, but a second time, and never saw the ground. Thank you Suzane Sensei! My only injury was some pulled ligaments. Then I thought, lucky I attended these “How to fall" workshops. The result could not have come out better.

~ Jon, aikido student of 4 months

 

Learn How to Fall Safely - workshops are held periodically at Aikido Multnomah Aikikai. Check our Eventbrite page for the next session: http://PracticeAikido.eventbrite.com

"Sense What's Behind You" - January 2018 Winter Intensive

Sense What’s Behind You

 There is a tradition in the Japanese martial arts of training intensively for a period of time in the coldest part of the winter: "winter keiko"

There is a tradition in the Japanese martial arts of training intensively for a period of time in the coldest part of the winter: "winter keiko"

 

January Winter Intensive is a time to renew your resolve to practice, to warm up your internal engine in the cold of winter, to come together with your fellow dojo members and support each other in taking a significant jump in progress.  

 

 

 

This year's theme is Sense What’s Behind You. 

 

 

I invite you to consider the meaning both literally and figuratively.

 

Sense what you’ve come through and come to in your life. How has your history brought you to the opportunity now before you? What is coming to completion? What are you grateful for? Consider lineage. Who has come before you and who is coming up behind you. What is your responsibility to your sempai and your kohai. What is behind you can also refer to something that’s hidden from you (ura), something you are unaware of, yet is nearby. I invite you to set your intention to become aware of something you've been unaware of.

On the mat, we’ll study ushiro waza and koshinage providing you with the opportunity to sense the position of uke behind you. In ukemi, I invite you to sense the space behind you, the shape of your spine as nage leads you, the shape of the space as you reach for the ground and take your roll or slide in for a pin. 

  • Ushiro waza includes ushiro ryotedori, ryokatadori, eridori, kubishime, hijitori. These attacks from behind offer the opportunity to develop a keen sense of what’s behind you and how to shift position to lead uke clearly. The accelerated motion of ushiro waza allows you to warm up your center, sweat, get a good work-out and feel your internal heat meet the cold winter air as you exit the dojo.
  • Koshinage offers the study of sensing the space behind you and positioning uke clearly for the hip throw.
  • Ura techniques provide opportunity to set intention to enter into uke’s blind spot.
  • All of these practices offer opportunities to improve ukemi and maintain clear connection with nage.

The new year is an excellent time to renew our commitment to training, look in the mirror (kagami), break our old habits (biraki) and resolve to improve ourselves. I invite you and challenge you to step up your training. In Japan, winter intensive is a time period when people resolve to practice everyday. This January, come to the dojo as much as you can and mark your attendance every day that you come in. At the end of the month we’ll recognize the members who trained the most.

 

Overview by day of the week:

Mondays, 12:30pm classes, core theme, Van Amburgh Sensei

Mondays, 6:15pm classes (Jan 8, 22, 29):  Koshinage series, Sheedy Sensei

Tuesdays, 6:15pm classes: fundamentals/ core theme, Van Amburgh Sensei

Tuesdays, 7:30pm classes, weapons theme, Van Amburgh Sensei

Wednesdays, 12:30pm practices, Greg Corbin

Wednesdays, 6:15pm classes: core theme, Oliva Sensei

Wednesdays, 7:30p, Zazen practice, Oliva Sensei

Thursdays, 6:15pm classes: intermediate level open to 4th kyu + above, Van Amburgh Sensei.

Thursdays, 7:20pm weekly check-in meeting dojo admin/operations

Thursdays 7:30pm classes: weapons theme 36 jo basics, Van Amburgh Sensei

Saturdays, 10:30am classes, fundamentals/ core theme, Van Amburgh Sensei

Saturdays, noon special subjects (open to the public):

Jan 6, Sat noon: Learn How To Fall Safely - Van Amburgh

Jan 13, Sat: The Balance Challenge Circuit Training Course - Van Amburgh

Jan 20, Sat noon: Embodied Customer Insight - Sabine Amend

Jan 27, Sat noon: Learn How To Fall Safely  (encore event) - Van Amburgh

 

Special dates:

Jan 1 closed for New Years Day holiday

Jan 2 Tue, Resolve to Train! First class of the new year, all levels (not advanced)

Jan 4 Thursdays, (intermediate class, 4th kyu+): theme kick-off

Jan 6, Sat, noon: Learn How To Fall Safely - Van Amburgh

Jan 10 Wed: Fold a Crane, Origami folding activity for adults and children, runs concurrent with kids class 4:45 - 6:15pm - Van Amburgh hosts

Jan 13, Sat noon: The Balance Challenge Circuit Training Course - Van Amburgh

Jan 15, Mon: closed for MLK Jr holiday

Jan 17, Wed: Kagami Biraki + gathering (food and drink)

Jan 20, Sat noon: Sabine Amend special guest

Jan 27, Sat noon: Learn How To Fall Safely

Feb 1, Thu: Theme wrap up, demo/assessment

Feb 4, Sun, Master Class with Fleshler Sensei

 

Calendar View: Link to a calendar style overview

 

Weather Notes:

Winter weather can be unpredictable and disrupt our plans. This month, let’s build our resilience and practice our adaptability. Specially scheduled events may need to be rescheduled or cancelled. Let’s improve our communication systems to keep each other informed and help each other out through the month.

Check Upcoming Dates page if you’re wondering whether class is on. We’ll post a notification as soon as we make the determination. Please save the link and check often: http://tinyurl.com/aikidodates.

Check for the latest Portland weather forecast:

http://www.katu.com/weather 

http://www.kgw.com/weather

http://www.wunderground.com/weather-forecast/US/OR/Portland.html