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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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December 16, 2014

"Play the rests... "

Rafael Oei Sensei

I'm sure many musicians and music teachers may have also said that. Rests are often ignored by the novice or young music student. However, rests are equally important in any work of music.

In Aikido, there are students who expect to just receive instruction in class: "Just tell me what to do...", wanting to be shown a technique and then rushing through the sequence to execute the technique without concern for the energy flow and nature of the attack from one's partner. Then when it is their turn to attack as "uke", rather than working with their partner, they either fall before being thrown, or drop to the ground before being pinned by their partner.

This is similar to the music student who busily and "blindly" reads and plays all the notes printed on the music sheet, ignoring the time signature, note values, dynamics, articulation, and rests. Busy with lots of action with no form or discernible substance. Quite similar to a person who is constantly busy at doing something all the time, anything, just to fill every moment of every day.

Aikido involves paired practice, for both partners to cooperate and communicate to help each other learn and experience each technique. As important as techniques are, students are expected to also work at improving their ukemi. This will allow their partners a good and satisfying practice experience too. Just as it is in any relationship, if one side is found wanting, the relationship breaks down and either one or both partners will eventually leave Aikido practice.

Ukemi means to receive with the body, requiring focus, flexibility, confidence, and sensitivity to avoid injury; not just blindly attacking. Traditionally it takes three years to acquire a decent level of competence at taking ukemi. Taking good ukemi helps students progress better than just practising the techniques as tori.

How does one improve on being tori and uke?

Play the rests, i.e. play the silence too.

Some people find the silence unsettling, unnerving, and scary. However, to improve taking ukemi, being tori, or just generally to improve oneself, learn to thrive in silence too.

Read between the lines, listen to gaps between sentences, and experience the space between thoughts. Listen to the quiet without comment or judgement. Then be prepared to communicate well with your partner in class, and actively engage in being sensitive and listen.

Playing the rests are just as important as playing all the notes on the page. That's why the composer put them there.

Learn to play the rests too.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright December 2014: Rafael Oei)

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