It is apparent that in the Sonoma County area we have a lot of choices for Aikido. Through all the dojos in the area, I resonate the most here, at my home dojo in Petaluma California under Bob Noha Sensei. Sensei Noha has a very unique style and approach to teaching. I remember one of my college professors saying that man needs mystery and mysticism. For me, Sensei Noha fills the role of Sensei, spiritual guide and priest. As a student of his, he allows me to find my own sense of mystery and mysticism and, through the framework of Aikido, gives us a way to tap into some deeper aspects of my own spirituality and a process by which to develop a true sense of body, mind and spirit integration.
Tonight, we started the evening working on kokyu dosa. He talked about the concept of kokyu, breath, as more of a feeling that we get as we hold our hands up and extend out in the kokyu position at the end of kokyu dosa. This was the framework we used for the rest of the evening to explore O Sensei’s concepts of “manifest, hidden and divine”. Manifest, (physical), hidden (energetic) and divine (states we come to in deep sleep, deep prayer, deep contemplation or deep practice) are the three levels, all connected, that he wanted us to have an experience of in our practice this evening. We did this through standing in hanmi and holding kokyu, and feeling those three levels within the body.
Sensei works similarly to Nadeau Sensei in that he always builds upon levels. Sometimes he works through level 1, level 2 or level 3 in a series of techniques and sometimes he works in this manner, noting that although there are different levels, they all interlink, compliment and work with each other in the system. One of the things I really enjoy as a student of Sensei Noha’s, is that he shows that, with a little bit of effort, these levels are accessible to us. We do not have to be the “chosen one” or fast for 40 days. When we quiet the system and open up, these things, maybe sometimes just as fragments, are available to us. It is our job to build on this and allow this process to help us develop in the human experience.
The way that he teaches is different than most. We do a lot of verbal contemplation in class and usually work only one or two techniques. I’ve found though that this approach has actually helped my Aikido tremendously, and more importantly, gives me tools for development in all aspects of my life. I know that this is so because I can visit other dojos and feel like I can contribute both as uke and nage when there. Of course, my home dojo was on the list of places to visit. I’m honored to be a student of Bob’s and feel very lucky and privileged to be able to train with him.