Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview with Greg Olson Sensei

Greg Olson Sensei from Big Sky Aikido in Bozeman, Montana taught a seminar at Aikido of Reno August 8 and 9, 2009. He took a few minutes to answer some questions at the conclusion of the seminar.

Already a third degree black belt in judo, Olson Sensei switched to aikido after observing it for just one hour. When asked what it was about aikido that affected him so strongly, he said, “It was a demonstration by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, specifically his iriminage technique.” The underlying philosophies of judo and aikido are similar, but they are manifested differently because of different constructs. From his judo perspective, Olson Sensei was drawn to the subtleties of aikido as demonstrated by Ueshiba. He was just watching as a guest from the back of the dojo, and decided in one hour to change the direction of his life. Before even beginning, he was already following one of the principles he said is important in aikido – being open to possibilities.

Olson Sensei commented that contact with a bully can help us to grow. When asked to elaborate,
he said, “When a bully enters our space or our environment, it allows us to examine ourselves and react appropriately under this kind of pressure.” We can learn that in aikido. The power of knowledge is like a sheathed sword, and when the bully sees it’s there, it protects us.
Olson Sensei also talked about similarities between aikido and ballroom dance. When questioned further, he responded, "They are similar in regard to rhythm, distance, and timing. Rhythm is the most important of the three, because it allows the unfolding technique to create harmony between two individuals, making it possible for them to come together. Mechanics are important for this to happen, but feeling controls mechanics. Although the qualities of dance movement are similar to aikido, there is a philosophical difference between the two. Dance is more cooperative. While aikido is not competitive, it is more so than dance. Also, generally speaking, dance is more constrictive in terms of partner choice, and aikido is more open that way."

Finally, when asked what one piece of advice he would like to share with aikido students,
Olson Sensei smiled and said, “Easy. Train with joy. If I couldn’t have that, I wouldn’t train.”

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