What the wife saw

I attended a couple of sessions by Shihan Minegishi Mutsuko, one on Monday and the second one on Tuesday, 19 November.

The second one was held at SIM University, my wife took the opportunity to bring our 2 boys to UniSIM (as we used to call the place) to see the school which both their parents graduated from. It was sort of win/win for all. I get to train, my wife gets to bring back some nostalgic moments, the boys, well, get to see UniSIM and their dad train.

I’ve attended class with Shihan Minegishi before, and I know her style, but having not trained for a good 8 months due to work commitment, I chance this opportunity to clock some Aikido ‘mileage’.

Well, those who have trained with Shihan Minegishi, will know her, and her personality. And I was OK with her antics, which at times contradicts her. Put it simply, what she says, sometimes is not what she does. And what she does, is contrary to what she says. In short, she can be quite a character, and as feisty as a female shihan can get.

Towards the end of the session, she took a couple of us, from senior belts to beginners, to demonstrate an Ikkyo techinque, I was one of them, and the obvious fact is that I cannot execute an Ikkyo Omote Waza on her. There was no ‘opening’ and when there is, and when you get close enough, she would give you an atemi. But when she does the technique on us, or on me. it seems rather, easy.

For beginners, or even advanced practitioners, this is a very baffling effect. Why is it that when we get close to the sensei, we get an atemi, and when the sensei gets close to us, we do not atemi the sensei? Call it respect, call it hypocrisy, call it what it is, I am aligned to the former, more than the latter. Besides the fact that the Ikkyo was done, in a static manner, she is conducting a class, I am an instrument, for her to use in the conduct of the class.

In a static Ikkyo, you can resist to kingdom come, if you want to, it can go from static to a free for all, if you want to. Remember, Newton’s law applies in Aikido, things in motion stays in motion. Things that are static, remain static, resistance is a natural occurrence of a static phenomenon.

So it appears that the Ikkyo she does is more ‘superior’ to the Ikkyo we do, since she is able to ‘get us’, and we are unable to ‘get her.’ She eventually got frustrated, that we are unable to ‘get her’, and apart from calling me stupid (which to me is an honour, since she didn’t bestowed this on anyone else.) she went even further to challenge the class, and asked the class if anyone wants to try to do an Ikkyo on her.

Which is OK with me. Call me names, that is fine. I’m not going to let name calling frazzle me.

But my wife had another perspective.

She was on the top of the stairs looking down, and from that distance, she cannot hear what she said (my eldest son, claim he heard her called his dad ‘stupid’) but she didn’t like her style. And she says Shihan Minegishi did too many ‘cheap shots’. She didn’t know what the hell is an Atemi, and perhaps, neither does Shihan Minegishi.

When she said ‘cheap shot’ it struck me. She continue to say that she has seen Harry sensei’s technique and he does not ‘cheap shot.’ Having heard that confirmed what struck me. Harry sensei does not do ‘atemi’. I posted this topic 6 November 2012, ( https://whoisrandylim.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/no-atemi/) Harry sensei does not hit you, and if he does, it will come with a heavy dose of explanation as to why he does it. for Shihan Minegishi she does it, because she can hit you, period.

When I give further thought to it; it dawned to me that Shihan Minegishi had a “Brad Pitt ala Troy Moment.’ where in the film, he played Achilles and his entry fight for the Battle for Thessaly. After slaying the larger opponent with one stab, he stood in front of the enemy and uttered the iconic phrase ‘Is There No One Else? Is There No One Else?’ When she openly challenged the class to do an Ikkyo on her, she did exactly what Achilles did. Which of course, just like in the show, There is no one else. Otherwise, Achilles, will not be Achilles, would it?

The point is, I would have let everything go as if it was a natural thing to have happen in a dojo, until my wife came along with her ‘untrained eyes’ gave me that input, and enlightened me, and show me an irrefutable observation. Shihan Minegishi does cheap shot, and Harry sensei does not. Go figures which one has a better grasp of the Budo principles. For me the choice now, is even more clearer!


About Who is Randy Lim

This blog is about the journey and experiences in my life as an Aikidoka. With close to 20 years in the arts, I'll make comments and judgements based on 2 principles, E&E. Experimentation and Experiential reflection. please enjoy, and comment freely.
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4 Responses to What the wife saw

  1. David Yap says:

    Yes, Minegishi shihan sometimes does cheap shots. No, Minegishi shihan does not give cheap shots. Think for a moment, why she called you “Stupid”. Knowing her, it is not in her nature to disparage people. Perhaps you were overly passive and she wanted a reaction from you.

    Ikkyo, according to O Sensei, is a lifetime technique – meaning it takes a lifetime to perfect (perhaps why it is the first technique to begin with). When you took ukeme for Minegishi shihan, you were compliant but she wasn’t when she took ukeme for you. Sometime when you take ukeme for a beginner or for a kohai, you would jam his/her technique because the movement/execution did not meet your expectation of a good technique. Consider her atemi as her rejection of your technique. She disparaged you and expected you to get angry and probably expected you to atemi her when you see an opening…but you did not and you missed an opportunity to see how she would have responded to that. In my class, all my students are encouraged to strike lightly or to stop the technique when a nage consciously or unconsciously walks/moves into the striking range of the uke. Why, because Aikido is a martial art and it boils down to sensitivity and appropriate response. The uke has the right to respond when the nage counter-attack or does something stupid like walking into a punch πŸ™‚

    When I attended Endo shihan’s seminar, I took ukeme compliantly for him. He stopped me and told me to resist his technique – “don’t go down on the mats, fight to keep your balance”, he said. I did, I resisted his move to pin me down and tried to stand up and each time I did he off-balanced again and I fought to get up and this repeated over and over again until he said, “Now, can you SEE what I was doing”. Hai sensei!! I replied and he smiled and walked off. During the seminar, he would come around and made spot-checks on my progress and I could see him grinning when he didn’t need to correct me. I don’t “Sensei-Hop” but my sensei allows me to train with any sensei or shihan within the Aikikai umbrella and if it is outside Aikikai, I can only do so very very discretely. According to him, I must find my “own” aikido and not copy his.

    Sometime, you need to do some “sensei-hopping” to do a reality check. There is a Malay proverb which says “Like a frog under a coconut shell”…


    • Hey David,

      It looks like we can agree on the ‘cheap shot’ part. Personally, it is alright for me, being called ‘stupid’. She called the other 2 Ukes after me the same remark. So i guess she was generally ‘disparaging’.

      I have trained with her before and I would still do so, with Minegeshi Shihan. She is who shs is, and those who choose to go under her tutelage will know what to expect. If one don’t like her style, please do not turn up! πŸ™‚ For all her misgivings, she is still a very, very strong Aikidoka, and there are plenty, many more tricks up her sleeves that we all can learn from.

      An apparently ‘difficult’ sensei, offer just as much, if not more learning than an ‘easy’ sensei. I guess I can reflect on your remark that perhaps I was too complaint, too passive. Or perhaps she was overly active and too dynamic. There was certainly a gap in skill (obviously!) and in my struggle to close it, could have made me appear ‘stupid’.

      And yes! I’ve been under the tutelage of Endo sensei (yes, I do train under a variety of senseis) and my experience and learning is very different! It was quite sometime back, but his teaching has left a very deep impression in me, and I still constantly reflect on my experience with him.

      Its great to have you spending time to contribute here. I really appreciate you taking time to write, challenge my perspective and keep opinions open and candid!




  2. David Yap says:

    On reality check:

    In 2004 I attended the 9th IAF seminar in Tokyo as a newly minted shodan. The last event was an Embukai whereby each member country was to give a demonstration. I remember the embu given by a 6th Dan country head of a national federation. He had two columns of uke lined up on his right and on his left. As he walked between the columns uke from each side would go up one after another to grab his wrist (either katatedori or morotedori) and with a small movement of his arm he would send them flying effortlessly with kokyunage. I was so awed by him.
    Couple of years ago I attended a regional seminar which this particular shihan was one of the instructors. So happened that I was the first person called to take ukeme for him. As I have attended his class before, I was reminded that he demands a strong and committed attack from his uke. So when he instructed me to grab him with gyaku hanni morotedori, I moved in and gave him a strong firm grip with both my hands. When I did that, he said sarcastically, “Why, you don’t know how to attack? Why you stand so close?”. I apologized and took half a step back. He then turned and called another person from the mats to hold his other arm. The next thing I saw was that guy falling down on the mats. I was still holding his other arm when he turned back and gave me a disgusted look which sort of said, “WHY, don’t you know how to fall?”
    I was in dilemma – how was I going to fall when I was standing upright and he hadn’t done anything? He must have read my mind. He raised his arm horizontally, (he was now further way from me after having moved away to throw the other guy), and that was the cue to do a perfect back ukeme for him. The people in the seminar must have been just as awed as I was years ago πŸ™‚


    • Yes, I have that same feeling before. Holding too strongly, hence impeding my ukemi, and sometimes falling too soon, and appearing too ‘collaborative’. Minegeshi sensei did bring this point to the class, again and again. It was a polish of our sensitivity to another human being, after being dulled by the vicissitude of life. A constant challenge!


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